District considers regulating electronics use in schools
Craig Faculty and staff in Moffat County schools have tried to regulate students' cell phone use during academic hours.
Moffat County School District officials are planning to follow suit.
At its last meeting, the Moffat County School Board approved the first reading of a policy regulating the use of electronic devices in its schools. During its meeting Feb. 28, the School Board is scheduled to vote on the policy after receiving feedback from the public.
If the board votes to pass the policy, it will go into effect shortly afterward, Assistant Superintendent Joel Sheridan said.
The policy requires that students store all electronic mechanisms, including iPods and cell phones, in lockers and cubbyhole areas during school hours.
During that time, students cannot carry the devices.
"If a student is believed to be carrying/using an unauthorized electronic device during unauthorized times, he/she will be asked to surrender it," the policy states.
Students would be allowed to use their cell phones only during emergency situations, which the district defines as "an actual or eminent threat to public health or safety, which may result in loss of life, injury or property damage," according to the policy.
Consequences for using an electronic device during a non-emergency situation include one-day confiscation and a warning upon first offense.
Further policy violations would require a parent or guardian to retrieve the device. Additional consequences may result.
Exactly what those consequences would be is up to each school, Sheridan said.
Prohibiting the use of electronic devices - especially cell phones - during the school day are matters of privacy, academic integrity and safety, he said.
School District teachers and principals agreed.
"This policy is important for two reasons: to protect the integrity of academic time and to protect our students from the harmful effects that have become a frequent concern," Jane Harmon, Moffat County High School principal, wrote in an e-mail.
The high school already has rules prohibiting cell phone calls and text messaging at school, she said.
Enforcing these rules prevents bullying, cheating on tests and spreading "inappropriate pictures of students" using camera phones, Harmon wrote.
However, the problem of device use in school isn't limited to high school students.
Recently, student cell phone use has become an issue at the elementary and intermediate school levels.
"It has started for us this year big time," East Elementary Principal Diana Cook said, adding that her school staff has confiscated phones from students in first grade and higher.
Some parents give cell phones to their children for safety reasons, she said, but students can use them to call or text message friends during the school day.
Parents occasionally place calls to the students during school hours, she said.
Ken Olinger, Craig Intermediate School dean of students, said some of his students have used cell phones during school hours.
"If I see them, I take them," he said, adding that the school's student handbook prohibits use of these devices during the school day.
Cook said the district's proposed policy provides consistency for schools like East Elementary that have been prohibiting the use of electronic devices before the district's proposed policy was created.
Still, the district's policy may be difficult to enforce as written, Amber Clark, MCHS science teacher, said.
Confiscating a cell phone or iPod that is in use is easy enough, she said, but confiscating those devices when they're in a student's pocket or backpack is a different issue.
"Your eyes can't be everywhere," she said.
Some high school students believe the policy itself is unfair to those who carry, but don't use their cell phones during the school day.
"A majority of kids don't use (their cell phones) much," MCHS sophomore Brodie Schulze said.
"I think you should be able to have (cell phones) with you as long as you're not disturbing others," high school junior Kirsten McAlexander said.
Students' cell phone use is a community-wide issue, said Krista Schenck, high school marketing and business teacher.
"I don't think it's just the kids," she said, adding that some parents call their children during the school day.
For her, it doesn't matter whether the person on the other end is a friend or a parent.
"If it rings, it's enough," she said.