School codes deal with cellphone use
TRI-COUNTY AREA—Technology can be a useful tool in schools, but it can also be a distraction when it comes to cellphones and other portable electronic devices.
That is why area school districts have rules in place regulating when and where some of these devices can be used. What is allowed varies from district to district.
In Penn Yan, Superintendent Dave Hamilton said the code of conduct groups cellphones with all other small, electronic devices, like portable music players and handheld games. He explained the non-educational use of any such device is prohibited because it would be “disorderly or disruptive.” He said this applies from the first bell to the last bell of the day.
However, Hamilton added that any of those devices, cellphones included, can be used if it is for an educational purpose. He explained a teacher may allow students to use phones for an in-class project. When not being used, Hamilton said phones need to “off and not seen.” Students can have the phone with them though.
There are also punishments if these rules are broken. Hamilton said it is up to the staff member’s discretion if a student breaks the rules by using a cellphone. He explained if it happens in the classroom, the teacher might just take the phone, but give it back to the student at the end of the period. He said in other cases the phone may be confiscated, turned into an administrator, and returned to the student at the end of the day. Hamilton said continued insubordination could lead to detention or in-school suspension, depending on the number of infractions.
Cellphones and portable music players aren’t the only electronic devices students may be using, though. There is also a variety of laptops, tablets, and netbooks out there. Hamilton said those devices haven’t been an issue yet at Penn Yan, so there is nothing against them.
Dundee is somewhat stricter. Principal Chris Arnold explained cellphones can be brought into the building, but must be kept off and in the locker. Arnold added laptops are not allowed at all. He said music players and iPods are allowed in classrooms at the discretion of the teacher, but not in the hallways.
Arnold explained the first offense for using a cellphone results in it being confiscated and the parent must pick it up at the end of the school day. He said if it happens again, student may face suspension.
At Hammondsport, students are required to leave cellphones in their lockers, or in a book bag if it is an elementary student. Superintendent Kyle Bower explained students cannot have phones out in the open at all. He said if a student is caught using their cellphone, the device is taken and can be picked up from the principal’s office at the end of the day. Bower said if the misuse continues, the student may be required to leave the phone in the office during the school day. He added a technology planning team is doing an in-depth study about changes to the regulations.
Bower said portable music players are allowed in the computer lab when students are working. The devices are prohibited in the hallways. He added laptops are allowed, but discouraged. Bower said few students bring in netbooks or tablets, so issues have not come up at the school.
Watkins Glen Superintendent Tom Phillips said the rules exist to teach students when it is appropriate to use a phone. Phillips said Watkins Glen students can only check their cellphones and make calls during lunch time. He added that is allowed so parents can contact students about after school plans.
“We discourage parents from doing that,” he said. “We ask they call the school.”
Other than that, he said students must wait until the end of the day. Phillips explained cellphones must be off and either in a student’s locker or book bag. He added that students have access to computers and netbooks, so they can contact parents by e-mail during the day instead of by phone.
There are also punishments if these rules are broken. Phillips explained a student gets a verbal warning the first time a teacher catches them using a cellphone outside of the allowed times. After the second offense the phone is confiscated and the parent must pick it up at the end of the day. Phillips said if a student continues to use their cellphone, it will still be confiscated and only the parent can pick it up after school.
Cellphones aren’t the only electronic devices students may be using, though. Phillips said students can also bring in laptops or tablets, as well as iPods and portable music players. When it comes to laptops, Phillips said the school discourages students from using them because there are school computers and netbooks available. He added non-school computers are not allowed to connect to the district network. Phillips explained music players are allowed in school, but not to be used during class time.
Technology has made it so other devices can contact people. Some tablets can make phone calls, and laptops with a USB card and a phone service data plan can connect to the Internet. Watkins Principal Dave Warren said the same rules for a cellphone would apply if a student were caught making a call in these ways.
The Odessa-Montour Junior Senior High School has a similar policy. Principal Greg Conlon explained students may use their cellphones up until the homeroom bell. He said after that students can keep their phones with them, but “off and invisible.” He added cellphones are not permitted until the last bell of the school day rings, with three exceptions.
Conlon said students may use their phones during the lunch half hour. He explained it is helpful to communicate with parents about after school activities. Seniors can also use their phones, but only in the senior lounge classroom. Conlon said 12th grade students are allowed to go to the lounge if they have a study hall. He explained students can also ask either the principal or the guidance counselor permission to use a cellphone if that student thinks it is an emergency. Conlon added if the student is allowed to use the phone, it must be done in that office.
Conlon said the first offense for using a cellphone when not permitted results in a warning. He added the second time that a student gets caught, the phone is confiscated and the parent must come to pick it up. For continued improper use, Conlon said the student might be assigned after school detention.
Laptops are also allowed at Odessa-Montour, but Conlon said there is no policy concerning those devices. He added he rarely sees a student bring in their own laptop or netbook. Students can bring in iPods and music players. However, Conlon explained that they can only be used during study hall while the student is working.