'Why would we want cell phones in the school?'

School board considers a zero-tolerance policy

On Monday, April 10, members of the Flandreau school board, administrators, teachers and others in attendance at the meeting discussed the school district’s cell phone policy.

The recent discussion on the electronic communication device policy first began in February, after someone notified board president Darren Hamilton that a student had taken a picture of a test and sent it to a friend in the next class section.

The current policy states that students cannot use their personal electronic devices during the school day in classrooms, hallways or other academic settings. These devices include anything not provided by the school: cell phones, iPods, mp3 players.

But cell phones can be used in the lunchroom or gymnasium, designated phone zones, before school and during lunch hour. However, they must be put away, turned off and out of sight at all other things, including passing period between classes.

At the meeting last week, board members talked about the zero tolerance policies at their work places and also how during school board meetings, their phones are turned off.

“I have never heard of where a cell phone has helped get any job out there,” said board member Tom Stenger. “We come to this board meeting and we shut our phones off so we don’t get distracted from what we’re talking about here.”

He said for emergencies, each classroom has a phone. Students, who already have access to computers, could purchase calculators at fairly low price and the clocks in classrooms can be used as timers.

Though acknowledged that some parents would be upset about how to contact their kids, a suggestion arose to bring in Brett Spencer, a Division of Criminal Investigation agent who recently spoke to middle school and high school students in Flandreau about internet safety, to talk to board members, parents and teachers about the dangers of cellphone use they might not realize.

“If cell phone use truly improved performance, we would be using them in business,” board member Matt Lacey said. “In my opinion, the policy we should have would be the elimination of cell phones.”

Trish LeBrun took another stance, saying ‘don’t fix something that’s not broken.’

“I tend to lean more towards allowing the students time throughout the day at some point, like lunch, to check their phones,” LeBrun said. “I don’t want them in the classroom. But the teacher’s classroom is the teacher’s classroom. … Maybe [students] won’t feel the need to sneak in the classroom and check their phones.”

Overall, the board agreed that the current policy on cell phones is not the policy they want, with other worries concerning locker rooms and bathrooms.

Stenger said if the board allows cell phones in the school at all, he guarantees they will end up in the locker rooms, whether on purpose or by accident.

“We need a policy we’re going to enforce,” Hamilton said. “We need continuity between what the board is going to do, what the administration is going to enforce and what the teachers are going to do.”

Board member Clay Pavlis said he doesn’t see why the board even considers allowing the students to have their cell phones in the school.

He said in the time before cell phones were everywhere, people got to school, practices, sporting events in different towns and schedule changes without them.

“What’s the upside of a cell phone in the school?” Pavlis said. “Why would we want cell phones in the school? … They’re everywhere and they don’t need to be. It’s a crazy concept to me, unless it’s our own fear of not having them, our own addiction, our own mentality.”

For the next school board meeting in May, Lacey will develop a policy to present to the board regarding no cell phones in the school.

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