Changes Made to Cell Phone Policy at Middle & High School

By Alex Malm

The School Board received an update regarding the middle and high school’s revised cell phone policies during the July 25 meeting.
One of the biggest changes Middle School Principal, William Van Bennekum, pointed to about the policy is students needing to keep their phones off/silenced during the school day and keeping their phones in a backpack or a locker.
Van Bennekum said they are giving the option of phones being silenced, saying if something were to happen it could take a few moments for a phone to turn back on if it’s powered off.
“Silenced may be more reasonable,” Van Bennekum said.
Another change Van Bennekum pointed to is that since all students have Chromebooks starting this year, students won’t be asked to download apps on phones for educational purposes.
Van Bennekum said that there are times when they are used in productive ways and there will be some flexibility for teachers to allow them from time to time for educational purposes.
As part of the policy, students won’t be allowed to use their phones to “call, text message, email, or electronically communicate with others from their devices, including other students, parents, guardians, friends, and family, during the school day.”
No phones will be allowed to be brought to physical education class, the locker rooms, or any restrooms in the building.
Students will also be forbidden to “photograph, video, and/or audiotape any student or staff member without their consent,” according to the policy.
School Board member, Tim Porter, said he was concerned about letting phones be used in classrooms based on discretion and asked if there could be some notice given to parents when they would be used in classrooms.
Van Bennekum said it may need to be vetted more as they go along.
New High School Principal, Rick Barnes, said they had a group of a few administrators and students look at the policy.
“This was pretty much my first task looking at cell phone policy,” Barnes said.
He said previously there was no formal policy for cell phone use at the high school level.
“At the high school there really wasn’t anything,” Barnes said.
“To provide the best possible learning environment, unauthorized use of any personal electronic or audio/visual device is prohibited in classrooms and resource areas,” the policy reads.
The policy also outlines what the consequences would be for using electronic devices improperly, ranging from a warning for a first offense, to making a formal referral to the administration.
Also as part of the policy, like at the middle school, “personal electronic devices may be used in the classrooms or resource areas at the discretion of the teacher; students are required to get permission before using any electronic device in class.”
Personal electronic devices are “generally permitted outside of the classroom in common areas such as hallways, the cafeteria, and the library media center,” according to the policy.
“Students will be expected to immediately comply with any staff member’s request to cease use of their personal devices in the common areas as they deem appropriate,” the policy reads. “Students who do not comply will be subject to further disciplinary action.”
The policy also makes clear that it is “expressly forbidden to photograph, video, and/or audiotape any student or staff member without their consent.”
Barnes said he expects it to be a major change with the new policy in place next year.

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