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Lower Merion School District


LMSD Implements "Off and Away" to Build Healthy Phone Habits

Over the summer of 2023, at the request of the Lower Merion Board of School Directors, a subcommittee of the LMSD Wellness Council studied the issue of students’ use of cell phones and other personal electronic devices in school.

The subcommittee included LMSD staff, administrators and community members, with a wide range of perspectives on this topic. What the members had in common is an abiding concern for protecting and ensuring the physical health and mental wellbeing of our students, as well as promoting a positive learning environment in our schools.

The result of their work is "Off and Away,” a concept that is supported by both LMSD Policy and practice, that will be used to direct the use of personal devices, such as cell phones and smart watches, in our schools.

“Off and Away” does not ban students from bringing devices to school, nor from using them at appropriate times and places. “Off and Away” does aim to lessen distractions in our classrooms and decrease the stress students report due to the expectation to read and/or reply to text messages, social media posts, group chats, etc. when they are trying to focus on learning.

Simply stated, “Off and Away” means that when students are in class, devices are to be turned off and put away. In elementary and middle schools, this applies at all times when students are on campus or at school events. At the high school level, students may be able to access their devices during free periods, Lunch and Learn, and between classes. Some exceptions may occur for specific circumstances, such as emergencies, as referenced in Policy and AR 235.

Once school starts, we hope students will be sharing the “Off and Away” message with their peers, in an effort to affect a change in school culture, so that everyone knows when it’s OK to use devices and when it’s not. But this culture change cannot happen without the help and understanding of families as well.

There are times during the school day when a parent or guardian may need to contact their child. If a parent or guardian needs to speak to their student immediately in the case of an emergency, they should call the main office at the student's school. Staff will get the student to a phone. In other cases, parents and guardians are asked to let children know that it's OK not to respond immediately to a call or text. 

The specific Policies and practices regarding “Off and Away” vary by educational level and are explained in detail in the FAQ document, which you can access here. The document also includes link to research on the connection between students' use of devices and social media and their health and wellbeing.

Building leaders will be meeting with students as school begins to discuss “Off and Away” and to respond to their questions and concerns.

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