Student cell phones OK’d for school use – with limits

TUPELO – When Tupelo students head back to school, they can take their cell phones with them.
But under a revised policy, they shouldn’t expect to use them without express direction from their teachers.
On Tuesday, the Tupelo Public School District Board of Trustees approved a policy change allowing phones and other electronic devices on campus. Previously, any student cell phone was subject to confiscation just by being on campus at school.
The new policy better reflects realities of a digital age, school administrators said, but “it still has teeth in it,” Assistant Superintendent George Noflin said.
Any phone or other electronic device used between the first and final bell without direction of classroom teachers will be confiscated.
District administrators asked the board to revise the policy – which applies to all Tupelo schools – for both educational and practical reasons.
Smart phones and PDAs have a wealth of functions that can be helpful, such as scientific calculators and calendars to track assignments.
“There’s one model that uses cell phones to teach Algebra II,” said Tupelo Superintendent Randy Shaver. “This frees up educators to use them appropriately.”
Part of the new policy was a practical matter, Superintendent Randy Shaver said. High school administrators were spending too much time confiscating phones and returning them to parents.
Under the new policy, students caught using their phones without permission would have them confiscated for the duration of any punishment. On the second offense, the phone would be confiscated for the rest of the semester.
Confiscated phones would have to be returned to parents, not students. The policy also clarifies that students do not have a right to privacy and that confiscated phones are subject to search.
District policy for staff cell phones remains the same.
“We still expect them to keep them put away,” Shaver said.
The cell phone guidelines were one of 21 policies approved by the board Tuesday in preparation for publishing district and school handbooks.
All but one of the items were revisions of existing policies.

Contact Michaela Gibson Morris at (662) 678- 1589 or michaela.morris@djournal.com.

Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal