Skip to content


Sending us into summer with an invitation

One of the more challenging questions I was asked as I met with multiple interview committees prior to being offered this position at Ballard was how schools can meet the social, emotional, behavioral, and mental health needs of students. Believing there is no one-size-fits-all answer, I spoke about the importance of having the resources to provide a full range of services, both proactive and responsive, as we strive to meet the needs of our students. I return to this question often, always wanting us to stretch our thinking and build our toolbox for our students. While I still don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all answer, I do want to challenge us today to hone in on a community dialogue about our youth and cell phones.

Ten years ago, I was an advocate for allowing cell phones in schools. I stood firm on the importance of educating youth about healthy boundaries in an environment (schools) where we could provide mentoring and feedback about the right time and right place for cell phone use. The phones of today and the apps of today do not match those of 10 years ago, and I am no longer an advocate for cell phones in schools.

I just finished reading The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Health Illness. My reading doesn’t suddenly make me an expert on the topic, but it does provide further motivation to engage in a community wide conversation about the statistics and thoughts author Jonathan Haidt raises about the impacts of phone-based childhood (see author excerpt below).

To state the obvious, I know that it is within my authority and even my responsibility to recommend that our school board write policy related to cell phone use in schools. In fact, you will see this recommendation on a school board agenda in the very near future. Beyond that, this invitation today is to engage in a broader conversation around Haidt’s findings and recommendations, both for schools and beyond.

Only one other time in my career have I recommended a book on such a broad platform as this, and that was for Jamie Vollmer’s Schools Cannot Do It Alone. Similarly, Anxious Generation has great potential for community discussion.

I invite you consider one or all of the following:

  1. Commit to reading or listening to Anxious Generation,

  2. Encourage someone you know to do the same and have a conversation about the content, and/or

  3. Join a study group this summer that will be organized based on responses to this invitation.

Book Study Group Sign Up

In this interest survey, you will be asked about your preferences for group membership (community, educator, or mixed) and availability (morning, afternoon, evening, or no preference).

The interest survey will remain open until June 10. Please pass the invitation along to anyone you know does not receive this district email communication. Meeting dates and times will be organized through late June and July based upon responses. Time commitments will be determined by small groups once organized.

Thank you Ballard Community for a most fulfilling first year in the district. You have welcomed me, challenged me, and supported me in ways I had truly hoped you would. I wish you all a wonderful summer.

Excerpt from author:

After more than a decade of stability or improvement, the mental health of adolescents plunged in the early 2010s. Rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicide rose sharply, more than doubling on many measures. Why?

In The Anxious Generation, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt lays out the facts about the epidemic of teen mental illness that hit many countries at the same time. He then investigates the nature of childhood, including why children need play and independent exploration to mature into competent, thriving adults. Haidt shows how the “play-based childhood” began to decline in the 1980s, and how it was finally wiped out by the arrival of the “phone-based childhood” in the early 2010s. He presents more than a dozen mechanisms by which this “great rewiring of childhood” has interfered with children’s social and neurological development, covering everything from sleep deprivation to attention fragmentation, addiction, loneliness, social contagion, social comparison, and perfectionism. He explains why social media damages girls more than boys and why boys have been withdrawing from the real world into the virtual world, with disastrous consequences for themselves, their families, and their societies.

Most important, Haidt issues a clear call to action. He diagnoses the “collective action problems” that trap us, and then proposes four simple rules that might set us free. He describes steps that parents, teachers, schools, tech companies, and governments can take to end the epidemic of mental illness and restore a more humane childhood.

Haidt has spent his career speaking truth backed by data in the most difficult landscapes—communities polarized by politics and religion, campuses battling culture wars, and now the public health emergency faced by Gen Z. We cannot afford to ignore his findings about protecting our children—and ourselves—from the psychological damage of a phone-based life.

Dr. Dani Trimble