Away For The Day

When A School Reversed Its Cellphone Policy

Delaney Ruston, MD
November 1, 2022
We couldn't have anticipated that ‘Away for the Day’ would go as great as it has to start this school year.” 

School Administrator, the monthly magazine of AASA, The School Superintendents Association. is running a feature article this month that I wrote about implementing Away For The Day cellphone policies, where I share several stories from school administrators. Recently I received a wonderful email from Adam Slusher, vice principal at Pennsville Middle School in New Jersey, who did a thoughtful rollout of Away For The Day, using many of the free resources we’ve put together to help people through the process. 

What I think is great about the letter is that it maps out in great detail the rules they created as well as details on how they implemented Away For The Day. The school did a lot of leg work with families before the school year started, but that said, we know of schools that changed to Away For The Day after winter break. 

With Vice Principal Slusher’s permission, I’m sharing parts of his letter to me here: 

“I wanted to give you an update on how things are going here at Pennsville Middle. Since July, we began communicating with parents that we were moving to an "Away For The Day" policy regarding smart devices. In our messages, we encouraged parents to have conversations with their children 6 weeks ahead of school to prepare them for going deviceless from 7:35 - 2:13.  We continued (probably annoyingly) sending messages throughout August reminding parents how we were going to handle smartphones much differently this year.  
At our Board of Ed meeting in August, we adopted the policy below and communicated to parents that we would be taking devices away if they interfere with learning.
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We also presented to the entire student body on the first day of school our philosophy, why we're moving in this direction, and what the consequences would be if instructional minutes were interfered with.  
I have cc'd our Principal Carolyn Carels on this email because she would likely echo the same thing that I am about to say.  We couldn't have anticipated that Away For The Day would go as great as it has to start this school year.  The amount of devices that we saw last year in the hallways, classrooms, and cafeteria (which we allowed) was exorbitant.  Teachers only wrote up the most egregious violations of our cell phone policy - and it slowly spiraled out of control as the year went on.  
…Students have been very cooperative, and I think they understand the why of what we're doing.  We can't tell you how much we've been thanked by staff - this school year has just had a completely different positive feel to it.  
Yesterday after our State testing, we took time in the afternoon to show Screenagers to the entire student body and have teachers facilitate discussions with students. …
…I also wanted to thank you [ Delaney and Screenagers team] for all the work you have done compiling research and highlighting other districts and schools that are moving in the same direction.  It made it easy for us to communicate our rationale with parents, district administration, and the Board of Ed. It seems like every time we look at the news now, we see another district moving in this direction because of how distracted this generation is.
This is one of the bigger "teachable moments" of our careers so far because adults are learning how to manage this right along with our students.  Thanks again for all your hard work and we will continually try to keep you updated!
—Adam J. Slusher, Ed.D
Vice Principal - Pennsville Middle School"

Questions to get the conversation going:

  1. What are the phone policies at your school?
  2. If you were in charge of phone policies at your school, what would the policies be?
  3. Given that some people have a harder time than others being off a phone and thus may suffer more academically, is there an equality component to Away For The Day policies?
  4. What policies would you have in place for elementary schools? Middle schools? High schools? 
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Away For The Day

When A School Reversed Its Cellphone Policy

Delaney Ruston, MD
November 1, 2022
We couldn't have anticipated that ‘Away for the Day’ would go as great as it has to start this school year.” 

School Administrator, the monthly magazine of AASA, The School Superintendents Association. is running a feature article this month that I wrote about implementing Away For The Day cellphone policies, where I share several stories from school administrators. Recently I received a wonderful email from Adam Slusher, vice principal at Pennsville Middle School in New Jersey, who did a thoughtful rollout of Away For The Day, using many of the free resources we’ve put together to help people through the process. 

What I think is great about the letter is that it maps out in great detail the rules they created as well as details on how they implemented Away For The Day. The school did a lot of leg work with families before the school year started, but that said, we know of schools that changed to Away For The Day after winter break. 

With Vice Principal Slusher’s permission, I’m sharing parts of his letter to me here: 

“I wanted to give you an update on how things are going here at Pennsville Middle. Since July, we began communicating with parents that we were moving to an "Away For The Day" policy regarding smart devices. In our messages, we encouraged parents to have conversations with their children 6 weeks ahead of school to prepare them for going deviceless from 7:35 - 2:13.  We continued (probably annoyingly) sending messages throughout August reminding parents how we were going to handle smartphones much differently this year.  
At our Board of Ed meeting in August, we adopted the policy below and communicated to parents that we would be taking devices away if they interfere with learning.

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