Stricter cell phone policy to hit schools

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A stricter cell phone policy will take effect in Marshall County schools at the start of the 2010-2011 school year.

The full board unanimously approved the new policy at their March meeting last week. A similar policy was recommended by the policy committee in 2009 but failed to get the full board's approval.

The policy for "personal communications devices" has new penalties if a student is caught using such a device during school hours. Every offence will now result in a conference between an administrator and the student's parent or guardian, as well as a period of confiscation of the phone. The confiscation period starts with one day, and goes on to two days, one week, two weeks, and "the remainder of the semester."

"That's what the principals worked on," director of schools Roy Dukes told the board.

The board spent a little time discussing what would happen if the fifth offence occurred within days of the end of a semester, and also what the punishment would be for a sixth offence or for using a cell phone to cheat on a test.

"There needs to be a stronger consequence for using the phone to cheat on a test," said chairman Mike Keny.

"The principal sets the punishment for cheating," board member Kristen Gold pointed out.

"We probably need to look at the cheating policy," said board member Barbara Kennedy.

Marshall County's new policy is not as strict as Maury County's, where the confiscation is for two weeks, four weeks, and "the remainder of the school year."

Other policies unanimously approved by the Board on the policy committee's recommendation included important additions to Policy 1.700 "School District Goals." This puts in writing goals that the school board has discussed numerous times over the last year with representatives from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. These are:

* Merit and fairness. The method of employment and all actions affecting employees shall be based on merit and qualifications.

* Employment and staffing. Consistent with hiring the best available applicants, the district will "make every effort" to increase the number of minority teachers, administrative staff, coaches and support personnel "to be reflective of the percent of minority students enrolled in the Marshall County School System.

* Participation. Increase the number of minorities participating in all program areas.

* Training. Diversity training will be provided annually.

This addition to policy concludes with the statement, "It is expressly understood that the adoption of this Five-Year Goal Statement by the Marshall County School System reflects the diversity of the community."