A Minnesota middle school banned student cellphones a year ago, and the difference it made was “night and day,” according to school officials.

“I believe (the ban) is game-changing and will have lasting impacts on our students for years to come,” Maple Grove Middle School Principal Patrick Smith told WCCO.

“There was no cross-the-table conversations, there was no interaction in the hallways,” he said. “And let’s be real, with these devices, our students – especially our teenagers – there’s a lot of drama that comes from social media, and a lot of conflict that comes from it.”

Last year, school officials banned student cell phone use for the entire school day, from 8:10 a.m. to 2:40 p.m., following a variety of issues at the school tied to the devices.

“We have a culture and climate concern. We see issues that kids are getting on their phones through interactions of bullying, of setting up fights, just the gambit of a lot of the negative things kids are going back and forth on social media,” Smith said on the Chad Hartman Show, adding that the distraction from learning was also a major concern.

The new policy encourages students to keep their phones in their lockers, and the devices are confiscated for the day if students are caught using them. School officials vetted the idea with parents ahead of implementation and the response was “super positive,” Smith said.

When they unveiled the plan, parents applauded, he said.

“Nobody has ever pushed back,” he said. “I mean, in my experience, not one parent or community member has come in and said this is bogus, you shouldn’t be doing this, our kids should be able to have their phone. It’s been very, very much supported by our community and our parents and our staff.”

After a year, the results speak for themselves.

“In the grand scheme of things, kids are happy. They’re engaging with each other,” Smith said. “The hallway behavior, it’s just night and day.”

While it remains to be seen how the change has impacted academics overall, feedback from parents who spoke with WCCO suggest it’s making a difference.

“I do notice that he is thriving and really focused and doing really well,” parent Kim Gillen said. “Participates in class discussions. I get feedback from the teachers on that.”

The positive results at Maple Grove has bolstered Republican state Rep. Kristin Robbins’ efforts to bring the change to more schools in Minnesota.

“This is an area where we can really make progress,” she told WCCO. “The research shows if the phone is nearby, it’s a mental distraction because they’re wondering, ‘what’s happening with my phone? How can I sneak it? Should I go to the bathroom and check my phone?’”

A recent study from Common Sense Media examining smartphone data of 200 students found 97% of 11- to 17-year-olds use their phones during the school day, with the amount of in-school screen time ranging from less than a minute to 6.5 hours, with a median time of 43 minutes.

The study found students picked up their phones a media of 51 times per day, though pickup amounts ranged from two to 498 times per day, K-12 Dive reports.

Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows 91% of schools banned nonacademic use of phones during the 2009-10 school year, a figure that declined to 66% by 2015-16, before rebounding to 77% in 2019-20, according to the news site.