County schools OK cell phones for kids

Published 11:00 pm Friday, July 15, 2011

The Pike County Board of Education has changed its policy regarding cell phones and will now allow students to possess cell phones during school hours.

However, Dr. Mark Bazzell, superintendent of Pike County Schools, said the cell phones must be turned off during school hours and must be kept in backpacks, purses, lockers or pockets.

“We believe that this policy will be a positive thing,” Bazzell said. “Today’s world is full of cell phones. Kids ages 12 and up have them and almost all adults. So, it’s difficult to manage situations where kids are in possession of cell phones.

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“And, there are rational reasons for allowing kids to have cell phones in their possession. Some students and athletes are on campus after hours and may need to use their cell phones.”

Allowing students to have cell phones in their possession doesn’t give students free rein to use them.

“Cell phones must be used responsibly and only at the times permitted,” Bazzell said. “They cannot be used as calculators or as cameras. There will be consequences for any inappropriate use of a cell phone.”

The consequences will be the same as those incurred when the possession of cell phones was prohibited.

“The consequences will be very similar and they are graduated, beginning with a warning up to alternative school and the loss of the privilege of possession of a cell phone,” Bazzell said.

The new cell phone policy was based on input from the system’s administration and faculty.

“Other school systems are allowing possession of cell phones,” Bazzell said. “We probably had 50 percent of our students with cell phones in their possession. We didn’t go out and hunt them down but there were consequences if they were used. This new policy allows possession but not use. We’re taking possession out of the formula and we believe that’s the way we should go with this.”

Bazzell said the new cell phone policy is one of three policies enacted by the school board regarding electronic devices.

The Pike County School Board has also voted to allow cell phone and other “emerging technology” if they have legitimate educational uses in school.

The school system will allow certain personal electronic devices if they enhance classroom instruction.

“These devices may be used with the permission of the school administration and the teachers if they are legitimate instructional tools,” Bazzell said. “This allows us to keep up with emerging technology that enhances classroom instruction. Students will be required to fill out a form in order to get permission to bring these devices to school because they can also be used inappropriately.”

In the school board’s most recent action, the board adopted a resolution that will prohibit sexting at all levels of the school system.

Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs between cell phones or other electronic media. The term was first popularized around 2005 and is a combination of sex and texting, where the latter is meant in the wide sense of sending a text possibly with images.

Bazzell said that the resolution explicitly prohibits sexting.

The policy states that students will not create, use, send, download or display obscene, threatening, harassing or otherwise offensive messages or pictures including pornography to internal or external users, websites, social networks or blogs. “We have a policy in place regarding inappropriate use of technology but it is a fairly generic policy,” Bazzell said. “Resolution 8.65 is very specific and it also spells out the consequences of taking, displaying and/or transmitting appropriate pictures of oneself or others and the consequences of doing so. Not only will parents be notified but so will the police because these actions could be regarded as criminal activity.”

Bazzell said that in no way did the resolution regard sexting have anything to do with the recent arrest of a former assistant football coach at Goshen High School on several counts of sexual offenses involving minors. “All three of these regarding electronic devices have been in the works for a year,” he said.