School cell phone policy under review
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)- Some Hamilton County parents and students are questioning the school district's cell phone policy.
Cell phones have become an extension of the body for most people, especially teenagers. But they can be a major distraction at school. Since 2008, Hamilton County's policy has been clear and consistent. 1st offense: the school confiscates your phone, and keeps it locked up around the clock for ten school days. The second time, it's 20 days. For strike 3, you lose your phone for the entire year. That has raised concerns about student safety, after school and on weekends.
East Hamilton High School parent Chrissy Smith said her 10th grade son was recently texting in class, and has lost the use of his phone, including nights and weekends for two weeks while it is under lock and key at the school.
She says, "My problem is as a working single mother, my son's cell phone is how I make sure he's safe. He plays golf and baseball. East Hamilton's campus does not have baseballs fields, like other Hamilton Co Schools, nor a place for the golf team to practice, so practice times vary and locations change on short notice. The school does not provide transportation to these practices. My son uses his cell phone after school to let me know he has arrived to practice safely, and where he is. Without his cell phone, since I work until 6 pm, I cannot do my job as a parent, which is keeping up with my son."
10th grader Megan Aldridge wishes the school district would come up with a form of alternative punishment, rather than confiscating cell phone. "No one wants to lose their phone, it's a safety issue for many teen drivers," she said. "There should be some other punishment than to lose your cell phone."
Senior Chris Moore agrees. He said, "If a student is breaking the cell phone rules at school, make him do something he doesn't want to do. There's all kinds of punishment and things that need to be done at school. They would get punished, but get to keep their phone." He added, "Two weeks is too long for a first offense, they could cut that in half, at least."
School administrators say they're following policy, and whatever the punishment is, it should be the same for all. Assistant Principal Eddie Gravitte said, "If you're not consistent with established policy, you'll get one parent asking why the punishment for their child was more stringent than someone else. Consistency is the key."
School Board chairman Mike Evatt said since the policy was put in place in 2008, cell phones have become more of a necessity and a safety tool, and some changes are in order.
"I can't do without it, kids can't do without it. It's part of everything we do to communicate with our family," Evatt said. "I have a daughter who's a freshman in college, and you better believe I want her to have her cell phone on her all the time. We've got to look at the current policy. Let me be clear: students should be punished for using a cell phone or electronic device inappropriately in school, whether it's in the classroom, the hallway or wherever. But there can be a better form of punishment whether it be a fine, or a suspension, some physical work, or in-school suspension."
Evatt says he plans to bring the issue before the School Board during the next few months.
Here is the current policy:
Cell PhonesElectronic Devices
- Each school campus shall determine a policy for cell phone and electronic device use to be approved by the Assistant Superintendent and/or Director. This policy shall be communicated to students and parents. Violations of the school's policy shall include the following consequence:
1st Violation – Phone confiscated for 10 school days
2nd Violation – Phone confiscated for 20 school days
3rd Violation – Phone confiscated for the remainder of the school year
- Any phones not picked up within 1 week after the last school day in a school year become the property of the school.
Schools are not responsible for any theft or loss of any electronic device whether it is confiscated or in the student's possession