Should Students Have Phones in Class? We Asked Three Portland School Officials.

The issue has sparked fierce debate across the country.

Students arrive at a PIL basketball game. (Blake Benard)

If you don’t have kids, you might not have noticed, but one of the fiercest debates in America is whether children should be allowed to have cellphones.

You can find the argument atop the bestseller list, where social psychologist Jonathan Haidt posits in The Anxious Generation that constant access to social media is destroying a generation’s mental health. You’ll find it in the pages of The New Yorker, where editor David Remnick just interviewed Haidt. And you find it in Florida, the swampy laboratory of our national future, where Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill this month sharply limiting the use of cellphones by students on school grounds. (Presumably, the debate is also occurring via text messages exchanged between the students themselves, but in a lexicon you and I will never understand.)

Last week, WW invited representatives of Portland Public Schools and the Portland Association of Teachers to our offices for a discussion of Measure 26-246, which would renew a property tax levy to pay teachers. While they were here, we broached the question of the cellphone ban. And we found that the people whose work revolves around students disagreed on the right approach to phone use in schools.

In the following video, three people respond to our question: Interim Superintendent Dr. Sandy Husk; Portland Association of Teachers president Angela Bonilla; and Julia Brim-Edwards, a member of the School Board.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.