Sweetwater One School Board Approves Drastic Changes to District Cell Phone Use Policy

Views
The Sweetwater School District One Board of Education voted to prohibit cell phone usage during school hours for the upcoming academic year.

ROCK SPRINGS — It was almost an afterthought following a lengthy discussion and vote on the district’s facility use fee schedule.

But near the end of the Sweetwater School District #1 Board of Education monthly meeting tonight, agenda item 10-a called for the approval of the 2019-2020 school year handbook. This handbook must be approved every August before students head back to class for another year.

However, there was something very different in this handbook. Students will no longer be allowed to use cell phones between the hours of the day when they are in class after the board unanimously approved the policy.

Advertisement - Story continues below...

District administrators recognized the need to keep students more attentive in class, said Human Resources Director Nicole Bolton.

“I think it’s become loud and clear that we really need to make some changes to get engagement up and focus on our academia,” Bolton told the board. “The research is very clear what cell phones are doing to our youth and it’s time that we restrict it. And we are well within our authority and the law to do this on school property.”

Cell Phone Procedures K-8

The new policy will vary slightly between grades K-8 and 9-12. The K-8 policy reads as follows:

Sweetwater School District One recognizes the importance of communication and collaboration and provides devices for students to be productive in the classroom. Students in grades K-8 will be permitted to bring personal telecommunication devices on school property.

To prevent disruptions and distractions to the learning environment, and to keep students focused on academics, students will not be permitted to possess or use personal telecommunication devices during school hours.

Possession and use of devices will be limited as follows:

  • Students will be required to turn any devices off and keep such devices in their school lockers or other school designated location before the morning bell rings until school is released for the day.
  • The use of any device or camera capable of capturing images is strictly prohibited in classrooms, locker rooms, or restroom areas at all times.
  • The District is not responsible for any damaged, lost, or stolen electronic device.
  • If a student needs to make an emergency phone call, or a parent or guardian needs to contact a student during the day, the student shall make or receive such phone calls at the school’s office.

Cell Phone Procedures 9-12

The new policy for grades 9-12 reads as follows:

Sweetwater School District One recognizes the importance of communication and collaboration and provides devices for students to be productive in the classroom. Students in grades 9-12 will be permitted to bring personal telecommunication devices on school property.

To prevent disruptions and distractions to the learning environment, and to keep students focused on academics, use of personal communication devices will be limited as follows:

  • Devices shall be turned off and kept in the student’s backpack, locker, or other area designated by the classroom teacher (not in clothing pockets) during scheduled class periods.
  • Device use shall be allowed before the morning bell rings, during passing periods, lunch, and after school is released for the day.
  • If a student needs to make an emergency phone call during a class period, or a parent or guardian needs to contact a student during a class period, the student shall make or receive such phone calls at the school’s office.
  • The District is not responsible for any damaged, lost, or stolen electronic device.
  • The use of any device or camera capable of capturing images is strictly prohibited in classrooms, locker rooms, or restroom areas at all times.

Procedure Violations of Students in Grades K-12

Bolton also addressed the procedure violations should students not follow the policy:

  • For a first violation, a warning will be issued by a teacher or other staff member, and the school office will be notified of the warning.
  • Students not following teacher or other staff directives related to this procedure will be deemed to be acting in open defiance of school authority. This may result in a disciplinary referral.

Any violation will result in the device being confiscated and sent to the school’s office. A confiscated device will be returned as follows:

  • For a first offense, students may pick up the device at the end of the school day.
  • For subsequent offenses, parents or legal guardians must pick up the device from a building administrator.

Board member Stephanie Thompson said she liked the last violation procedure saying that it “gives power back to the parents.”

“To me, it’s a way for the parents to enforce that this is important, and you need to stop it, and you won’t get your phone back until you do,” Thompson said.

Board member George Reedy asked Bolton why the district didn’t prohibit cell phones on campus entirely. Bolton said that there are conditions when students will be allowed to have their devices, particularly diabetics whose pump systems are on their smartphones.

“There will be exceptions, but we won’t be creating Title IV’s just so students can have their cell phones,” she said.

Chief Information Officer Stephanie Tolman said students won’t even have access to schools’ guest wifi accounts. Rather, students and parents will have to use the office groundline phone systems if they want to get messages to each other.

The policy will take effect tomorrow morning when teachers return to work. Sweetwater School District One students return to school on August 19.