Less Tech, More Talk: La Sierra Academy Implements “No Cell Phone” Policy

Typical academy students will probably groan if a teacher takes away their phones. At La Sierra Academy (LSA), however, this is the norm, and staff and students alike have seen positive effects on campus because of it.

With the continued misuse of phones causing distraction and bullying, LSA administration knew they had to make a change. The K-12 school implemented its policy for the 2022-2023 school year: cell phones, earbuds, earphones, and smart watches are collected at the beginning of the day and are returned to students at the end of the day or when they leave campus.

As with any successful plan, this campus-wide policy did not happen overnight. LSA first tested out the no-tech policy a few years prior in its junior high—with great success. “We finally worked out the details so we could implement it on the high school campus with as little disruption as possible for students who had college classes at La Sierra University or who were in varsity sports,” said Libett Muñoz, LSA principal. “Not creating extra work for everyone, but [developing] an easy way to be consistent across the campus was important.”

For schools who are interested in implementing a similar policy on their own campuses, Muñoz emphasizes that a key component to success is getting your staff on board. Finding a procedure that doesn’t take a lot of additional “work” for them and receiving full support from the administration allows the policy to be carried out smoothly.

“This is a culture shift,” said Glenn Valenzuela, campus chaplain. “I would suggest that if a school wanted to start that they start in increments.”

It is also important to take into account special and emergency situations. “The drawback of not being able to access your device in an emergency and the inconvenience of having to retrieve your phone mildly annoys me,” said Ian, a LSA junior. “Additionally, another con…is that when trying to log in to websites and emails that require phone verification [such as Blackbaud, an online learning platform that La Sierra University utilizes], the lack of a phone prevents you from accessing these things during school hours.”

Overall, the policy has strengthened community and engagement on campus. Not only is it a breath of fresh air for teachers, who are able to teach with fewer distractions and disruptions, it has also provided an opportunity for class engagement. Students have even created new clubs that meet at lunchtime as a direct result of the policy. “I like that it encourages more face-to-face conversation and removes the temptation to take out your phone in class,” said Ian.

Valenzuela added, “This policy has provided them the opportunity to redevelop communication skills and to have an appreciation for social interaction.”
By Megan Jacobs