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Maple Grove Middle School principal testifies at state capitol on cell phones in schools

Maple Grove Middle School principal testifies at state capitol on cell phones in schools

Maple Grove Middle School (MGMS) principal Patrick Smith went to the state capitol last month to testify in front of the Minnesota state legislature regarding cell phones in schools. Smith spoke in support of the creation of a model policy that would make it easier for schools to go phone-free if they choose to.

maple grove middle school principal Patrick Smith testifying at the state capitol


Smith said he based his testimony on his school’s decision to go phone-free, an initiative Maple Grove Middle School began in the fall of 2022. 

The bill, if passed, would require the Minnesota School Board Association (MSBA) to create a model policy around cell phone use in schools that schools can adopt. The bill would not mandate that schools adopt the policy; rather, it would only mandate the creation of the model policy to help schools more easily implement a phone-free policy if they so choose. The bi-partisan bill was co-created by one republican and one democrat from the Minnesota House of Representatives, including District 37A representative Kristin Robbins, who represents Maple Grove. 

Maple grove middle school principal stands next to state legislator Kristin Robbins



“A couple years ago we were finding that every student conflict we had stemmed from social media somehow,” Smith said. “It was a post, a video, a text … everything was coming from the phones.”

The school’s cell phone policy at the time had a lot of gray areas, Smith said, with varying levels of tolerance for cell phone use during different times of the day or amongst different teachers. 

Smith said he and his team decided to cut out any gray area and create a policy that could be followed across the board, which he called critical to the initiative’s success so kids clearly understand the boundaries and know that the rules will be enforced consistently. 

Smith said the school’s culture and climate has improved by taking cell phones out of the equation during the school day to promote more in-person social interactions, engagement in classes and eliminating power struggles between teachers and students for phone access. 

“Kids just need this time, socially and emotionally, to disconnect and just be face-to-face with peers,” he said. “We are noticing higher levels of student engagement in the class, students talking to each other in the hallways and the lunchroom, not facing the phone, and they seem happier. They just flat out seem happier.”