Students at St. Clair R-XIII School will continue to be able to carry their phones around district buildings after a proposed ban was rejected by the school board on July 14.
Instead, the board voted at its monthly meeting to task a committee chaired by campus safety director Jim Wells with resolving a cyberbullying issue it says is “harming our students and staff almost daily”. He said almost all of the student incidents he deals with are related to cellphones.
“I’ve had students come and tell me, walking into my office crying, that they were suicidal because of something they just read at school,” he said.
According to a memo submitted to the board by Superintendent Dr. Kyle Kruse when the issue was first raised in June, cellphones contribute to many serious cases of bullying. He said the malicious revenge photos, memes and pornography that are being shared – including during class time – “have caused a lot of disruption in the educational setting, causing conflicts / arguments / fights between students, causing a significant mental distress in students, and causing a high number of disciplinary problems among students.
After the board filed a ban on student cellphones in school buildings in June to allow public comment, three parents signed up to speak at the July meeting. Ashley Barnes, Heather VanNess and Brandy McKenzie spoke out against the proposed ban and asked why the current cellphone policy, a ban on use during school hours, was not enforced.
Most of the board members agreed and decided not to enact a ban without a motion. Instead, he voted 5-1 to create a committee to meet and report to the board with recommendations that could include tougher penalties for violating current policy. Kruse said about 20 people have signed up for the committee.
He said successful enforcement of the current policy will be a “significant continuation of efforts” to ensure the rules do not become lax. Kruse said that will require buy-in from district employees and parents, who have at times resisted the confiscation of phones.
Although at the start of the meeting Wells argued for a ban, by the end he said he was convinced that a combination of strict enforcement of the current rules, parental buy-in and potential future recommendations of the committee, the district may be able to alleviate some of the problems.
He, Kruse, Barnes and Van Ness all said teaching responsible digital use starts at home.
Board member Tracey Roberts, the only dissenting voice, is a counselor at St. Clair with Dynamic Change Counseling and said she has worked with students who have considered suicide because of cyberbullying.
“Mental health affects everyone and our cell phones are a big part of that these days,” she said. “The way we can be part of the solution, I think, will come down to a cell phone ban. (It will help) at least our students here at school. We are not going to change family lives.
Roberts said every teacher she spoke to was in favor of banning cellphones.
“We have to start enforcing the rules we have now,” Vice President Brian Hinson said. “Maybe we’ll put some teeth into it, and the kids will listen and do the right thing.”
New Haven has the strictest phone policy of other local districts. Students caught using a phone on campus are first given detention and then a day of in-school suspension (ISS) on a second offense, according to the district handbook.
Washington and Borgia High Schools allow students to carry a silent cell phone. According to the Washington manual, if a student uses a phone during school hours, they can be assigned up to three days of school suspension. In Borgia, the first sanction is detention and repeat offenses lead to more severe punitive measures.
Phones are allowed in Pacific and Union high schools with few restrictions, aside from class-specific rules. The Pacific Student Handbook states that the school administration has the right to see the contents of any confiscated electronic device if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the device or its contents cause a distraction or are “inappropriate for school environment”.
- Louisville Judge Blocks City Efforts To Withhold Officers’ Personal Cell Phones In Breonna Taylor Raid | In depth
- Wishek PE teacher uses cellphones to help children in weightlifting
- 11 Best Cell Phones For Seniors (2021)
- #TBT: RIM against NTP; CFOs love cell phones; Flaps, sliders and pivoting screens … this week in 2005