An innovative pilot initiative, where students are not allowed to access their smart devices during the school day, has been implemented this year at Luxemburg-Casco Middle School. Known as “Away for the Day,” the program is based around research showing that teens do better in school with their phones away. Now in the third full week of the new school year, Middle School Principal Todd Chandler believes that the initiative has been positively received.
“‘Why are we doing this, and why now,’ are two questions I frequently receive,” says Chandler. “The short answer is that we want our students’ attention and focus back. We believe – and research supports – that by eliminating personal smart devices, schools are seeing increases in academic performance, increases in face-to-face communication, a reduction in social issues and decreases in unkind acts and bullying.”
“We understand there won’t be 100 percent agreement on this solution and that it may not be popular with everyone,” Chandler added. “But it feels like it’s time to do something, even if it isn’t perfect. We think it is going to have an impact.”
A survey on student technology use was sent out earlier this year to parents and guardians of rising seventh- and eighth-grade students. Almost four in five parents (78.2%) were either in favor, or strongly in favor, of proposed technology restrictions during the school day.
The survey also noted that 89 percent of the district’s middle-school students have a personal cell phone.
The roughly 300 middle-school students are required to leave all of their personal technology in their lockers from first bell to last bell of the school day, 7:37am-3:07pm. Prohibited technology includes cell phones, smart watches, air pods, and any other technology not assigned by the school. Restrooms and locker rooms remain as prohibited areas for student technology use.
Parents and guardians who need to contact their student during the school day can do so the old-fashioned way, through the school’s main office. Students are allowed to use their personal technology before and after the school day, along with checking messages from home prior to going to lunch.
For the first offense/violation of the “Away for the Day” policy, a staff member takes the personal technology device and brings it to the school office; the student can pick it up at the end of the day. A second offense is handled in the same manner. Should a third offense occur, the personal technology device also is brought to the school office. However, it must be picked up by a parent or guardian.
The new policy initiative will be evaluated throughout the current school year. Whether it continues in future school years – and if other district school buildings choose to adopt the program – will be determined by district leadership based on its deemed success or failure.