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Cell phones are getting out of schools, thanks to you

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Thanks to all of the changemakers working to create learning environments free from cell phone distractions, so many great things are happening in our schools. I want to tell you about real-life examples inspired by Screenagers’ AwayForTheDay.org, last week’s USA Today article about it, and some new resources on AwayForTheDay.org.

But first, a huge shout out to France and their response to the data that putting phones away in the classroom results in higher grades and other positive outcomes. Late last month, they officially banned cell phones in schools countrywide for students ages 3 and 15.

Meanwhile, on the home front, I was elated to get this letter from my daughter’s high school principal this week:

“RHS (Roosevelt High School) classrooms will be cell phone free zones. As a result, cell phones should remain in school bags, off or in silent mode during the entirety of their classes. This is a change from the previous year when teachers set individual policies within their classrooms.”

The principal did a wonderful job getting input from teachers, parents, and students before creating the new policy. Check out her full letter toward the bottom of the Away For The Day’s policy examples page.

Changes like this are increasingly happening in schools of all grades. Just this week I’ve heard from 25 people about changes in their schools around cell phone policies. Decisive principals, vocal teachers, and motivated parents are communicating their preferences and helping create change. Here are some examples:

1. A group of parents in Austin, Texas encouraged the Eanes Independent School District to change their cell phone policy. They used resources from AwayForTheDay.org to write an open letter to the school district trustees and circulated it among district parents. One of the parent-organizers, Brooke Shannon, emailed us:

“Away for the Day was a huge help in our campaign this past spring. We used many of the resources you all provided on your site to encourage close to 700 families in our school district to sign an open letter asking the district to change the policy. This past summer we collaborated with our superintendent’s office on the issue. We just received word a couple of days ago about the positive changes for the upcoming school year.”

2. Colorado parent and counselor, Angela Tapp, used the template we created as a starting point for a Change.org petition to get student cellphones out of her district’s middle schools. She says:

“The momentum has been astonishing.  The unexpected involvement of the professional community has served as a communication launching pad to engage with middle school families and school officials.”

3. In Portola Valley, California, school board member Jeff Klugman has used our resources to urge his district to change and enforce a cell phone ban in his schools. He has come up against some resistance and found the ‘pushback” section on the AwayForThe Day.org website to be very helpful. Last week he received good news that the district’s middle school, Corte Madera School, has added a new provision to their policy. The policy used to be that phones were supposed to be turned off for the middle schoolers but they were allowed to have their phones on them all day, but now the superintendent specifically added that phones must stay in backpacks or lockers all day. You can read their whole policy, and others, here.

Last week, USA Today interviewed me for an extensive article about the debate of whether or not to allow phones in schools. It really is worth checking out.

-Delaney Ruston, MD. Screenagers’ Filmmaker

If you are interested in seeing Screenagers, you can find event listings on our site. Or, join the thousands of people have hosted a screening in their community to help spark change. 

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