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France: Government Adopts Law Banning Cell Phone Use at School

(Oct. 30, 2018) On August 5, 2018, the French government promulgated a law banning “cell phones and other electronic communication devices” from kindergartens, elementary schools, and middle schools. (Loi n° 2018-698 du 3 août 2018 relative à l’encadrement de l’utilisation du téléphone portable dans les établissements d’enseignement scolaire [Law No. 2018-698 of August 3, 2018, Regarding the Use of Cell Phones in Schools] (Loi No. 2018-698) art. 1, Legifrance website.)

Background

Since 2010, the French Code de l’éducation (Education Code) has prohibited the use of cell phones “during class hours.” (Loi n° 2010-788 du 12 juillet 2010 portant engagement national pour l’environnement [Law No. 2010-788 of July 12, 2010, on the Nation’s Commitment Toward the Environment] art. 183, Legifrance website.) The new legislation would now extend the ban to breaks and meal times, thus effectively banning smartphones from schools for students under the age of 15. (Loi No. 2018-698, art. 1.) The Law provides for exceptions for students with disabilities or if cell phones are needed for “extracurricular activities” as defined by the school’s internal regulations. (Id.)

The ban was proposed as a way to “provide students with an environment that fosters attention, concentration and reflection necessary for [educational] activities, comprehension, and memorization.” (Proposition de loi relative à l’interdiction de l’usage du téléphone portable dans les écoles et les collèges [Bill on the Use of Cell Phones in Schools], No. 941, submitted on May 14, 2018, National Assembly website.)

Reactions

Critics from both sides of the political spectrum in France are saying the ban will not accomplish much and presents logistical problems. (La France interdit les cellulaires dans les écoles et collèges [France Prohibits Cell Phones in Elementary and Middle Schools], LE DEVOIR (July 31, 2018).)

France’s approach to this issue has also been regarded as “unusual,” as the decision on whether to ban cell phones is usually left to the specific school in other parts of the world. (Sean Wolfe, France Just Banned Smartphones in Schools During All Hours of the Day, BUSINESS INSIDER (Aug. 1, 2018).) In 2015, New York City lifted a cell phone ban for students as it was found that it was being disproportionately enforced at schools in low-income areas. (Id.)

Prepared by Sarah Ettedgui, Law Library intern, under the supervision of Nicolas Boring, Foreign Law Specialist.