School Board sign

A policy covering cellphone-use infringements by Franklin County’s high and middle school students has been revised by the School Board and will go into effect at the beginning of the next academic year beginning in August.

The board unanimously approved the measure at its Jan. 13 meeting.

The policy gives principals the discretion to allow the use of cellphones and other communication devices before 8 a.m. when students enter school buildings.

However, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., or when school is officially dismissed, the use of the devices, excluding school-issued Chromebooks, is prohibited unless the principal has approved a written request.

The use exceptions include teachers wanting to allow students to use their own devices to enhance learning when school-issued Chromebooks are not available and when students are using devices to self-monitor for health issues that are verified by a medical provider.

When internet outages occur, teachers are given the option of allowing students to use their phones as classroom learning tools.

Initially, the board was considering penalties for abusing the allowed-use standards, which would have included confiscating the device in question and submitting it to the principal or a designee.

Violation of the policy would have resulted in the cellphone being confiscated for seven days with the students paying a $25 fine to get it back after the penalty period ended.

However, School Board members had expressed concern at the Dec. 9, 2019, meeting and did not want the school system responsible for confiscated cellphones. Other concerns were expressed about problems related to legal requirements involving monetary fines.

The policy the board approved on Jan. 13 includes punitive measures for:

▪ First offense — cellphones will be held for the remainder of the day, to be returned to the student.

▪ Second offense — cellphones will be held for the parent to pick up at the end of the school day.

▪ Third offense — the student will not be allowed to have a cellphone for the remainder of the school year.

The policy also includes that if a student fails to relinquish their cellphone to the teacher or principal, the student will automatically be sent to Alternative School for 20 days.

Students who use their cellphone cameras could also be subject to additional disciplinary measures and have their actions reported to law enforcement agencies, if deemed necessary.

Director of Schools Stanley Bean has said the policy changes would give principals more flexibility in managing student cellphone use.

Franklin County High School Principal Dr. Roger Alsup has said that in some situations, cellphones can take high-quality photographs which Chromebooks can’t do.

However, he also had said it’s still personally difficult for him to allow students to use cellphones in class.

He told the board on Jan. 13 that the Alternative School option needs to be included in the policy so it will have “some teeth” to encourage students to comply with the policy.

Although the policy does not address using cellphones on buses, Transportation Director Mark Montoye said recently that bus drivers would have less to deal with by not having to police student cellphone use.

System principals have recommended that students be allowed to use cellphones while on school buses.