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School board encourages participation in Global Day of Unplugging, modifies cellphone policies for students

The Roanoke County School Board has adopted a resolution encouraging all students and staff to participate in Global Day of Unplugging, which will be observed from sundown on March 3 to sundown on March 4.  Global Day of Unplugging is an international effort to voluntarily restrict the usage of smartphones and computers for a 24-hour period to bring awareness to the harmful effects of prolonged smartphone and computer usage on mental and physical health of individuals, especially teenagers.

“Many teens are spending multiple hours a day watching or using smartphone screens,” said Dr. Ken Nicely, superintendent of Roanoke County Public Schools.  “Studies have shown that long-term exposure to the blue light from these devices can have a negative impact on sleep patterns and can contribute to mental health concerns,” Dr. Nicely said.

“While technology can be a great resource when used appropriately, we recognize our students and staff need to take breaks from electronic screens,” said Brent Hudson, chairman of the Roanoke County School Board.  “We are pleased to be part of Global Day of Unplugging and we encourage our students and our staff to unplug for the day and enjoy the world around us,” Hudson said.

During Global Day of Unplugging, instead of spending time on smartphones, individuals can participate in physical activities and other non-screen related activities such as reading a book, drawing or playing music.

The school board also has clarified the rules for student cellphone usage during the school day.  Elementary and middle school students may possess a cellphone, provided the device is turned off or placed in airplane mode and kept out of sight during the school day.  High school students may possess a cellphone, provided that the device is turned off or placed in airplane mode and kept out of sight during classes.  High school students may use the cellphone during non-class times, such as between classes and in the cafeteria during lunch.  Cellphones may not be used in bathrooms or locker rooms, or to record altercations or disciplinary incidents.

“Feedback from teachers tells us that cellphone use in classrooms distracts from learning and focus,” said Dr. Nicely. “We appreciate the school board setting clear boundaries that we can implement in our schools in support of teachers and student learning,” Dr. Nicely added.

For more information, please see administrative regulation 6.42dAR at


-- January 19, 2023