Board approves electronic device policy for schools
Carbon County parents may want to reconsider allowing children to take cell phones to public schools after Feb. 1.
On Jan. 10, the Carbon County Board of Education approved a policy on electronic devices that can be brought into district school buildings.
If a prohibitted device appears in a student's possession on the grounds of a public school, there is a good chance that parents will be informed the item has been confiscated.
"It is a problem that is getting out of hand and we have no policy now," said Robert Cox, the principal of Carbon High School. "There have been numerous incidents which have led up to us proposing this policy to the board of education."
Youth taking pictures of students in restrooms and shower rooms on cell phone cameras, then passing the photos electronically along to others.
One high school student reportedly took a picture of a key for a test on a cell phone.
The youth's parents later found out and brought the youth to the school.
The situation could have been more of a problem had the photo been passed along to other students.
An elementary student brought a cell phone to school and apparently let a friend use the electronic device.
Soon after, a delivery consisting of a number of pizzas arrived at the front door of the school.
The pizzas had reportedly been ordered from the cell phone's number.
Youth have become adept at text messaging friends.
Students can actually sit at desks with pencils in one hand and text message on a cell phone in a pocket.
The situation could compromise standardized and school tests as well as create additional problems.
Until the Jan. 10 vote, the district did not have a comprehensive policy regarding the possession of or use of electronic devices on school campuses.
In the past, administrators have been facing the problem without any real rules to abide by other than just common sense. The policy presented to the board included ideas and language from similar policies in other school districts.
"Other districts have been having this problem and have dealt with it," said Cox. "I think we need to too."
The policy first gives the district the right to define the educational value of all electronic wireless devices that are now available or may become available. It also gives administrators the right to "prohibit their use if they disrupt the orderly learning environment of the schools in the district."
But a number of people brought up the fact that with the quick development of technology, many of the single use devices are now becoming multifunctional, some of which have legitimate uses as educational tools.
"What about one of these," board member Wayne Woodward said as he held up a PDA.
Cox explained that the policy had been developed to allow devices based on their use.
"We are still going to allow PDA's and lap top computers for now, but what will be allowed will depend on how things go," stated Cox.
Devices like Blackberrys, Blackjacks, and the newly introduced I-Phone have or will be incorporating three or four device functions into one; everything from a MP3 player to a phone to a PDA. But officials said that would mean the policy would have to be reviewed often, as technology changed.
Discussion took place about whether the devices could be used anywhere on campus. Cox said that they wanted to completely ban them from campus. One board member wondered if that wouldn't create a mass exodus from campus at lunch time.
"Probably no more so than we already have," was the answer Cox gave to that question.
The board also discussed the penalties for bringing such devices to school. The policy that was approved calls first for confiscation and then payment of a fine to get the device back. The fine for the first violation and to get the device back is $25. Subsequent fines are $50 each time.
Along with the confiscation and fine, the parents of the student will be notified about the situation.
Although the policy was in its first reading and the board usually takes three readings before passing such a policy, the problem had become so acute and immediate that board member Debbie Blackburn made a motion that the board skip right to the third reading and approve the policy.
"We need to go forward on this quickly. But how are you going to deal with the changes that are taking place in the technology?" she asked Cox.
"I think we will be back before you soon as things evolve," he said. "We will need to revise this policy as things change."
Cox said that he and other administrators wanted to implement the policy Feb. 1 to give students and parents time to adapt to the change. He also stated that the schools would be sending out letters to parents explaining the new policy.