The new policy states that "If student misuse of a cell phone results in confiscation by a principal, the student or parent may be subject to a $10 administrative fee before the device is returned."
Deputy Superintendent Owens Saylor said the decision to amend the policy wasn't made hastily, but came after lengthy discussions and input from a lot of the stakeholders.
"This is a very complicated issue and we had focus groups with administrators, adults, parents and students and got a lot of input on it," Saylor said.
He said in the end, the board decided to take a middle of the road approach to the problem.
"We have decided, I think, as a school community, we didn't want to go to the far right of this issue and say nobody can have them at any time. That would be, not only impossible and impractical, but we didn't want to send the wrong message, because there are time when students need cell phones," Saylor said. "But on the other hand we didn't want to say 'Oh, forget it, you can have them and use them anytime.' So we had to find a moderate, kind of down the middle of the road process that says 'We think it is OK for you to have them, but just don't disrupt and be disrespectful to the learning environment by the way you use it.'"
Saylor said the board understood parents' concerns and about being able to be in contact with their children at all times, and said the policy doesn't ban cell phones, it just defines proper use.
"We have some parents who say, 'Yes I want my child's learning to not be disrupted, but I want to make sure I can get in touch with them at any time,' and we understand that," he said. "By the board's policy, possession of the phones is not illegal. Inappropriate use is the violation. We don't want the teacher to have to take time to stop teaching because of a cell phone in class, or texting. We don't want anyone to lose anything, so this is fair for everyone."
Saylor said the goal of the board is to teach the students the rules for proper usage of their cell phones.
"I think that one thing that we've missed in the information onslaught of access is just that there is some decorum for its use. In fact there is some proper etiquette that we are all learning as we go and it has just reached a point where we need to make sure that everyone understands when it is appropriate to use and when it's not," Saylor said. "Just as adults have rules when they start meetings, they ask everyone to turn their cell phones off, we need rules for students, so we can focus on what is important at that moment and get back at the task at hand, which is instruction."
The new policy will be included in the district's code of conduct and will take effect Aug. 12.
Saylor said the district also wanted to remind parents that the responsibility for the safety of their child's cell phone lies with the student not the schools.
"We want parents to know that if they are going to give a child a phone, they are responsible for the safety of that phone and we don't necessarily think, and can't afford to spend a lot of administrative time, searching for cell phones that are stolen," Saylor said.