Examples of Middle School "Away For The Day" Cell Phone Policies
We believe that having phones put away in lockers, so the phone is physically off of the students, is the best practice.
If your students do not have lockers, then we suggest that phones get left in their 1st-period rooms in places like hanging pocket holders, baskets, or a locked safe. For those schools where this is not logistically possible, then having students put their phones in their backpacks is the next best choice.
Below are ways some schools are constructing their policies.
These policies and consequences are obtained primarily via what schools stated on their websites, and a few are from parents.
Some of these are the full policy while others are excerpts from the policy.
Do you have an innovative one that you want to share with us? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Possession and use of personal telecommunications devices, including mobile telephones in grades K-8, students will not be permitted to display, turn on, or use a telecommunications device, including a cellular telephone, or other electronic device on school property during the school day. The use of mobile telephones or any device capable of capturing images is strictly prohibited in locker rooms or restroom areas while at school or at school-related or school-sponsored events. ...The district is not responsible for any damaged, lost, or stolen electronic device."
"Students may have them out in the morning before school, but when the bell rings they must be off and in lockers until the end of the day."
"Electronic communication and listening devices such as cell phones, pagers, CD and MP3 players, iPods, etc. may be used before and after school only. If it is being used during the school day, school personnel may confiscate it."
"The phones are to be in their lockers from the start of homeroom until after the last period of the day."
"Cell phones, smart watches and any other communication devices may not be used while on campus. If you feel your child must have a cell phone, it must remain in their backpack, TURNED OFF while at school and during Extended Care. Texting and videotaping are not permitted anytime during the school day. Failure to follow these guidelines will result in a behavior detention and confiscation of the phone. The cell phone may be retrieved by the parent at the end of the day. This policy is in effect throughout the entire school day including extended care. Requests to use the phone or cell phone will be screened and the conversation monitored. Students are to make arrangements to go to friend’s home BEFORE they arrive at school that day."
"Mobile phones can be brought to school but must remain off or silent and completely out of view on-site for the whole of the school day. Any phone in view and on-site will be confiscated, logged and securely held until the end of the school day, at which point it can be collected by the student. Repeat offenders will be sanctioned in line with our existing behaviour policy."
"No cell phone usage on campus by students."
"All Jefferson Middle School students must complete a cell phone contract BEFORE bringing a cell phone on campus. This contract will be completed during registration. Once a cell phone contract is on file, it is valid for the entire time a student attends Jefferson Middle School. If you obtain a cell phone after the registration date or your cell phone information changes it is the student’s responsibility to contact the front office to either complete or update a cell phone contract. Per school board policy, your cell phone must be turned off from the first bell in the morning until after the dismissal bell in the afternoon. Cell phone use is NOT permitted on the school bus."
Corte Madera Middle - Portola Valley, California
"Cell Phone and Mobile Device Guidelines
PVSD recognizes the importance of communication and collaboration, and provides devices for students to be productive in the classroom. To keep the focus on academics and to reduce unnecessary distractions, the school enforces the following:
Cell phones and all mobile devices shall be TURNED OFF when entering school campus
Cell phones and all mobile devices shall be kept in a student’s backpack or locker – not in clothing pockets
Cell phones and all mobile devices are not allowed to be used in a classroom, library, common areas, or restrooms
Cell phones and all mobile devices can be turned back on at the end of school bell and used to communicate directly with parents/friends who are assisting in transportation
Cell phones and all mobile devices are not allowed to be used during transition times or between classes
If a student needs to make an emergency call during the day, they are to come up to the office"
Here's a letter that the principal from Roosevelt High School in Seattle sent to parents about their new policy.
Examples of consequences for cell phone infractions at middle schools shared with us by principals, teachers and parents.
If you would like to add your school's consequences to the list, send us an email.
Rob Thomas, Principal Twelve Corners Middle School, Rochester, NY
“Students who "forget" are warned the first time. The second time we collect the phone for student to pick-up from the main office at the end of the day and a parent is notified. The third offense, the parent has to pick it up and the phone is not to return to school.”
Jeanne Borders, Principal Cornerstone Preparatory Academy, Acworth, GA
“We have a strict policy if they don't abide by the rules: 1st time we take the phone & they can get it at the end of the day & parents are notified. 2nd time they can't bring the phone back on campus for the semester. We also have the technology in the building to actually "see" what phones are on our network - not as easy to see if they are not on our network and relying on data plan.”
Ben Elliott, Grace Christian School, Escondido, CA
“If the parent feels their child must have a cell phone, it must remain in their backpack, TURNED OFF while at school and during Extended Care. Texting and videotaping are not permitted anytime during the school day. Failure to follow these guidelines will result in a behavior detention and confiscation of the phone. The cell phone may be retrieved by the parent at the end of the day.”
Stephanie Gates, Cascade Christian Academy, Wenatchee, WA
“First offense....Device will be taken to the front office for the remainder of the day and may be picked up when a student is ready to leave school. Second offense....Device will be taken to the front office and must be picked up by a parent/guardian. Third offense....Device will be taken to the front office and a meeting will be set up and may result in the device to be left in the front office daily.”
Brigitte Garcia, parent, St. Wilfrid's Parish, Burgess Hill, UK
“Mobile phones can be brought to school but must remain off or silent and completely out of view on-site for the whole of the school day. Any phone in view and on-site will be confiscated, logged and securely held until the end of the school day, at which point it can be collected by the student. Repeat offenders will be sanctioned in line with our existing behaviour policy. “
Sandy Jordan, Assistant Principal, The Paideia School, Atlanta, GA
“We tell students that if they legitimately forget to turn in their phone, they can bring it to an adult at any time during the day to turn it, no questions asked. However, if we discover them using a phone during the day without permission, we call home and the cell phone may not be brought back to school for two weeks.”
Ashley Gillingham, Assistant Principal, Lake Harriet Community School, Minneapolis, MN
“We ask that families and students use the main office when communicating messages from home or school. Students using phones or electronic devices without authorization for the first time will be asked to surrender his/her phone to the teacher and can pick up the phone at the end of the day. The second time the phone will need to be picked up by a parent/guardian in the main office. The third time there will be a meeting with administration to create a personal electronics plan/contract.”
Jeffrey Jones, Principal, K. International School, Tokyo, Japan
“We must be diligent with follow up. Students using phones have them taken away and must complete a reflective activity to get it back – repeat incidents result in parents getting involved.”
A. Robert Jessen, Ph.D., Principal, Monte del Sol Charter School, Sante Fe, NM
“First offense is confiscation for 30 days and second is the rest of the year. “
Karen Webb, German Swiss International School, Hong Kong
“If the phone is seen anytime after school starts until end of school day, it is immediately confiscated. Student has to collect it after school ends.”
Lindsay S. Meredith, Counselor, Bedford Middle School, Westport, CT
“Not adhering to cell phone expectations will result in the following:
Warning by teacher during the 1st week of school (August 14th-18th).
Effective August 21st, cell phone infractions will result in confiscation and sent to main office.
First offense, students may pick up their cell phone at the end of the school day.
Following offenses, parents must pick up cell phone. Students who do not follow teacher directives will be acting in defiance which could result in a disciplinary referral."
"Students will receive a warning for the first offense, and a parent must pick up the phone in the office for second or subsequent offenses."
Corte Madera School, Portola Valley, CA
1st Time Violation: The cell phone or mobile device is held in school office until parent/guardian can pick up after 3:00 PM.
2nd Time Violation: A referral is written and the cell phone or mobile device is held in school office until a parent/guardian can pick up after 3:00 PM.
3rd Time Violation: A referral is written, the cell phone or mobile device is held in school office until a parent/guardian picks it up. Student must check in their cell phone each day by first school bell and pick up at 3:00 p.m. for the rest of the semester.
How to Roll Out a New Cell Phone Policy
When rolling out new cell phone policies there are ways to make it go smoother with key groups, such as teachers, students, and parents and we are excited to share examples here.
One thing to keep in mind in that while it is important that people feel heard, putting boundaries on conversations is critical. We know that in life anxiety always speaks loudest, and yet anxiety is not always the best voice to follow.
Parents and teachers may need coaching about how not to engage and defend regarding the new policy—and the complaining about it. You’ll want to coach them to maintain clear boundaries, to have empathy for the teens’ sacrifice, and to share in it together, all while being mindful not to derail the purpose of the policy. When enforcing rules, remember to do it warmly, but firmly. Don’t do it with angst and anger.
Here are some strategies to consider adopting for students, teachers and parents, alike.
So often students do not feel heard by the adults in their lives.
With new cell phone rules, students can again feel like they have no voice or choice. Reinforce that they will be heard once the new policy is rolled out. It is key to let them know they will have a chance to be heard. If the school immediately invites input from the students, then it could easily dissolve to the loudest voices complaining and the new rules will have a harder time prevailing.
Next, in a positive way manner why the new guidelines are being implemented. For example:
“Whether intentional or not, the phone can remove us socially, intellectually, and emotionally from being present with those we are with. The decision to move to ‘Phones Away During the Day’ was thoughtfully intentional too. We want us all to have a greater opportunity for face-to-face connections. Not being presently focused has increased social isolation issues. While the majority of social media can be intentional and positive, it can also cause others to feel left out, judged, anxious, and targeted. We hope you will reach out to a friend or teacher if things are hard. And, we hope you will take the time to think it through yourself. Less phone time will make that possible.
Why do we come to school? (Well, it’s the law.). A huge part of why we come to school is for this in-person socialization. In our connected environment, we learn from each other, teachers and other students. We learn to work together, take turns, listen well, speak up, question things publically, and to be collaborative. At school, we do these actions face-to-face.
We are in a technology revolution—something that has changed our society. The challenge is to learn to not let it control our society. We adapt and adjust to make improvements when things are not working well. And, as with other changes in our school, over time, our prior policies started not to support the goals of school and learning, creating more problems than solutions.
The fact that most students desire to be on phones is not only a student phenomenon. Staff, teachers, all of us are pulled to our phones. We, too, will be working with the new guidelines around our own use.
We want you engaged in this social and schoolwide commitment by increasing your own personal awareness of your use and its impact on your learning or relationships. As the week moves forward please take mental or physical notes of the potential opportunities you may have gained by not using your phone during class time or in passing periods with friends. Also, notice what opportunities you may have lost by having to navigate the day without your phone. Next week, we want to hear your thoughtful feedback and we are setting aside time for that.”
Another strategy is to have students, such as the student body leadership team, read the statement to students. When information comes from other students, it is often received better. The students can say something like
“We didn’t make these new rules but the school has asked us to share this with you.”
The principal at Roosevelt High School in Seattle met with the student council when thinking of the new rules and at first they said they were against it but as the conversation continued, and they spoke about how much more they got out of the classes where the teacher had a new phone policy, the consensus shifted to favoring it. Ultimately, as adults, it becomes our responsibility to coach our students toward healthy choices in the schoolhouse.
Brain researchers have found that the information we first receive in instruction is more significantly retained if our focus is dialed in the first time we hear/see/do something, rather than being distracted in a failed attempt to multi-task (Brain Rules by John Medina). When teachers share personal examples of times they were “off their phones” and fully present when learning something—or the opposite, on their phones and missing information— it can support the adoption of a new habit.
It is important not to shame students when they break rules, but instead to make an empathetic comment and then take the phone. For instance, “I know it is hard, I get it. It is a good thing we all get another day.” And then, have the student hand over their phone.
When teachers try to enforce a rule that they do not follow themselves, it can create` negative tension in the class. Teachers can go on their computers when they need to, but to go on a phone during class, without saying something like ”Sorry, I have a childcare emergency,” sets a bad example of this new policy. Ideally, the childcare person would have contacted the main office and sent the message to the teacher, just as we want parents to do when trying to reach our student at the school. If it is necessary to use your phone, please do so out of the sight of students, and in a private setting. Letting friends and family know about this new policy can also reduce the potential for them reaching out via a phone or text during the day.
How about doing a pledge to call the main office if I need to reach my child during the day as a way to foster the many strengths. Here are some points to include in the pledge:
- I can support improved executive functioning and planning skills (skills that adolescents work hard and struggle to develop naturally), by proactively thinking of issues/events that require parent support, such as pick up, preparing lunch, appointments, or activities in advance of school drop-off. Make a list and reconfirm in the morning before students are off to school.
- If a student needs to reach a parent during the day, then the skill of going to the office to ask to use the phone provides them with another opportunity to connect with the staff community. There are incredible administrative staff and many students never meet any of them because they are so dialed into their phones.
- Even if a student has their phone at breaks and lunch, these are short times and there are many things I rather they do.