The Union County Board of School Trustees voted unanimously Monday to allow students to have cell phones and other electronic communications devices on campus. However, students won’t be permitted to use them during the school day. If they are caught doing so the phones will be confiscated until the end of the school year.
Earlier this the month the school board took steps to change the district’s policy on cell phones in response to what chairman Wanda All said was the “gross misuse” of cell phones by students. She cited instances of students using cell phones to take pictures of exams and tests and send them to other students; students texting and “Facebooking” during class time; and using cell phones to spread rumors like the one about possible gang violence that brought a large contingent of law enforcement personnel to the Union County High School campus on March 13.
Dr. All said Monday’s decision reflects the board’s desire to enforce district regulations regarding cell phones while still permitting students to have them. She said the board decided to retain the old policy while strengthening its administrative rules.
“Our intent was to no longer tolerate the use of cell phones in class but not ban their possession,” she said. “The old administrative rule that went with the policy allowed the phones to be returned on a much shorter basis before the phone was confiscated until the end of the year. This puts more teeth into the policy.”
Trustee Jantzen Childers had also voiced concerns about the wording of the proposed policy. He said that while students shouldn’t be allowed to use their cell phones during school hours, they should be allowed to keep them for use after school. He said he favors the old policy of letting students have their cell phones with them but not use them during school.
“We know they all have cell phones,” he said. “The biggest thing to me is the safety of our children. There are times when they actually need them after school to call parents and tell them when to come pick them up or when practice has been changed or things that might come up.
“In this day and time we know they’ve got cell phones and there will be times they need to use them,” he said. “They should not, however, be used in school during instructional time.”
Superintendent Dr. David Eubanks endorsed the board’s decision to retain the old policy but increase the consequences for violators.
“The information that has gone out to the community has probably been more informative and parents now realize that cell phones have become more than simply a convenience and a communications device between parent and child,” he said. “They have in many cases become a nuisance and the message that we have sent is that we will consistently enforce the policy.
“We also understand that there are many students who use cell phones after school to communicate with parents concerning afternoon schedules,” he said. “We consider that to be a positive use and one with which we would not interfere.”