This School Took Away Smartphones. The Kids Don’t Mind.

Julie Jargon:

Students often looked down at screens during meals and even in class, where phones were prohibited. Teachers grew tired of being gadget police. Kids retreated to their rooms after class to scroll and text rather than gathering in student lounges. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020 and the school closed for a few months, class went virtual and things got worse.

“We found our students had disengaged more and more from real life as their phones became their world,” says John Kalapos, Buxton’s associate head of school, who graduated from the school in 2013. The trend continued after students returned to campus, he says.

Mr. Kalapos realized something needed to be done late last year after a student live-streamed a physical altercation. Watched on social media by many students, the fight became the talk of the school. He and other administrators began discussing a ban. Many students thought that the school wouldn’t actually do it—and that stripping phones from teens was unrealistic.