Cell phone use banned on another Southeast Missouri school campus

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Daily Statesman

ESSEX, Mo. -- A Stoddard County school district has become the latest Southeast Missouri district to ban students from using their cell phones on the school campus.

Richland school board members met Tuesday night to consider the district's policy regarding the use of cell phones by students. While three other student policies were also modified and/or revised with no dialogue from the board, the cell phone issue met with considerable comment.

Inclusion of the new policy regarding cell phone use was tabled at the July board meeting in order to give board members time to digest the new regulations that needed to be put into written form for students.

Superintendent Michael Kiehne, in presenting his proposed policy to board members Tuesday night, noted that changes in modern technology prompted the policy to be put into place.

"Developments in cell phone technology in recent years," the new policy begins, "have resulted in enhanced communication opportunities. However, the use of cell phones in schools poses increasing risks of school disruptions, bullying, criminal activities and academic dishonesty.

"As a result, beginning with the 2008-09 school year, unauthorized use of cell phones, digital cameras, and similar electronic devices by students will be prohibited on school property, during instructional time, as well as in dressing areas during extra-curricular activities.

"Instructional time is defined as any time students are involved in activities that are a part of the educational process directed by the Richland R-1 School District."

Kiehne then explained to the board the punishment process as stated within the policy. The first offense, he said, would result in a principal-student conference, followed by a principal-parent conference, confiscation of the device, detention, in-school suspension, 1-180 days at the Stoddard County Alternative Center, 1-180 days out of school suspension, expulsion, loss of user privileges and/or possible notification to law enforcement officials for prosecution.

Upon a subsequent offense, Kiehne went on, the punishment is identical, except that it offers no principal-student conference.

The policy notes also that phones are available in the school offices for parents to contact their students for legitimate reasons.

"The key term within this policy," Kiehne stressed, "is the term 'authorized' and 'unauthorized' use of the devices."

Citing an example of "authorized" usage, Kiehne defined the policy further, stating that in the instance of students traveling on a school-owned bus to basketball games, the use of cell phones would be beneficial, especially in notifying parents of estimated arrival times back on campus.

"The use of digital cameras on campus by students who work on the high school yearbook," he said, "would be another example of authorized use."

While generally meeting with the board's approval, Kiehne still fielded several questions from board members regarding the specifics within the policy and also the possible need for further definition with regard to cell phones, in particular, being present on school property.

Board member David DeJournett cited a case scenario wherein a student's cell phone might be found inside a locker in the event of a locker search.

"What would happen to that phone?" he asked. Kiehne responded, "It would be confiscated."

Discussion then ensued involving the severity of the consequences in finding a student's phone in an unauthorized capacity on campus.

Member Terry Blair echoed DeJournett's sentiment, stating, "I wouldn't be for confiscating a phone that is turned off, whether it's in a purse or a locker or in their pocket."

Again, Kiehne emphasized the terminology within the policy that refers to "authorized" and "unauthorized" cell phone use and the term, "instructional time."

"I'm encompassing the school day from 8 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. as being instructional time."

Kiehne emphasized, "School districts are realizing that we need to have a policy in place regarding the issue of cell phones and electronic devices and if we can start with banning the unauthorized use of cell phones, then I believe that we can curtail a lot of potential problems. This is not a perfect policy. We don't yet know what is. This is a work in progress right now."

Board members eventually agreed to alter the proposed policy by including the words, "on school property," which would encompass busses and parking lots. A vote followed to adopt the policy with the revisions and with the understanding that the policy will make allowances as circumstances present themselves

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