Schools can decide own smartphone rules in Denmark: MPs

Danish schools will be allowed to make their own decisions as to whether classrooms should be mobile-free zones, major political parties say.

Schools can decide own smartphone rules in Denmark: MPs
File photo: Kasper Palsnov/Ritzau Scanpix

The three parties with the largest number of MPs – the Social Democrats, the Danish People’s Party and the Liberal (Venstre) party – all consider the matter to be one for local authorities.

The issue was raised after France this week passed a law banning school children from taking phones into class.

READ ALSO: How France's mobile phone ban in schools will work (or not)

“Some schools in Denmark have also take that step, and I support them. But we shouldn’t be making laws about it in parliament,” Anni Mathiesen, a spokesperson with the Liberal party, said.

“I think it can be dealt with differently from school to school and even from year group to year group,” she added.

Eight out of ten people in Denmark are in favour of banning phones from schools, according to a survey conducted by Megafon on behalf of TV2 and Politiken earlier this year.

The Liberal and Social Democrat parties said they were open to a discussion of a national measure on the matter in future, but not at the present time.

“That survey does make an impression,” Social Democrat spokesperson Anette Lind said.

One school in Copenhagen, which decided to implement a rule against mobiles last year, said it has had the desired effect.

“When you go to the school you can see that children who previously had their heads buried in their phones have been replaced by children that are talking to each other or playing,” Lise Ammitzbøll la Cour, head teacher at Skolen på Gruntvigsvej in Frederiksberg, said.

Administration of schools in Denmark comes under the authority of municipalities, but many decisions are delegated to the managements of the schools themselves.

Danish People’s Party spokesperson for schools Alex Ahrendtsen said his party was against smartphones in classrooms, but that the policy must be implemented locally.

READ ALSO: Denmark calls time on last coin-operated payphones


Schools to close in Copenhagen suburb after infection surge

Denmark's health authorities have yet again closed schools for the youngest children in the Copenhagen suburb of Ishøj, in a push to reduce infection in the municipality.

Schools to close in Copenhagen suburb after infection surge
The youngest children were the first to return to the classroom on Monday. Photo: Anthon Unger/Ritzau Scanpix
The children in years 0 to 4 (6 to 11 years old) had only returned to the classroom five days ago on Monday.
“The infection rate needs to go down in Ishøj Municipality, where the infection curve has seen a sharp 67 percent rise since the beginning of February,” Denmark's health minister Magnus Heunicke said in a press statement issued on Friday evening. 
“We are therefore imposing stricter measures on the municipality to make sure we act on time.” 
The children will be taught by distance learning for one week until the start of the winter break on February 19th, and will then return to school after the break is over on February 28th. 
As well as the school closures, the government is calling on all  residents in the municipality to get tested next week, regardless of symptoms, and has also set up a local task force, to work to drive down infection in the municipality. 
A hundred additional contact tracers have been sent to the municipality to identify new chains of infection. 
“This requires a joint effort from all citizens in Ishøj Municipality,” Heunicke said. “I am making a big appeal to the municipality's citizens for everyone to now work to break the municipality's infection curve.” 
According to Denmark's state broadcaster DR, over the last week 71 residents of the municipality have tested positive for coronavirus, giving it a case rate of 300 per 100,000 citizens. 
Older pupils in Denmark are still being taught by distance learning until at least February 28th.