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Should cell phones be used at USC?

By Staff | May 22, 2016

Ten years ago, cell phones in the classroom were few and far between. But now, cell phones in the classroom, though still a nuisance, are much more common.

So common, in fact, that the United South Central School Board has had to get very specific with its school policies regarding cell phone usage when it reviewed its high school student handbook last week at a regularly scheduled meeting.

USC High School Principal Kelly Schlaak addressed the School Board about changes placed in the student handbook.

The handbook’s redefined the cell phone policy specifically to state “cell phones are not allowed in the locker rooms during the school day of 8:20-3:06.”

This change in the policy created some discussion between the principals, board members, and teachers in attendance.

“So, does that mean at 3:07, students are allowed to take their cell phones into the locker rooms?” questioned board member John Feist, playing devil’s advocate.

“It’s a tough system to follow, there is definitely more work to be done,” said Schlaak.

Schlaak, elementary school principal Tracey Magnuson, and Superintendent Dr. Jerry Jensen have already had multiple conversations about the specific topic, including the different discipline measures for each offense when a student is found with their cell phone either in the classroom or locker rooms.

But, it seems that students are not the only ones who are the cause of the cell phone distraction problem. “Sometimes, we are seeing that it is not the student that is interrupting class time, but it is sometimes the parent that is texting or calling their student during school hours and distracting them from their education,” said Schlaak.

It was also mentioned that many students have after school jobs that call or text during the day when it comes to a change in work scheduling.

“I don’t think it’s something we can actually take away, rather than just monitor,” said Schlaak.

There were questions about setting specific hours for cell phone use in all areas of the school, not just locker rooms, but the concern came up about keeping personal property from students.

“Because a student’s cell phone is their personal property, we cannot take it away. However, we can limit them inside our classrooms, hallways, and other areas of the school if we choose to,” Schlaak said.

“If we are giving internet access from our school’s iPads to our students, and we have ways for a student to contact family in case of emergency, why do we even have cell phones permissable in school at all?” asked Dale Stevermer, chair of the School Board.

“This is their culture,” said high school teacher, Brian Klingbeil. “A teacher can control their classroom, but I fear they will find a way around this rule.”

Other changes to USC’s student handbook also included adding “hate symbols” to the list of items students cannot wear to school, and to prohibit the use of “vaping pens, and/or any nicotine devices” to the tobacco-free-school policy.

With those changes, the School Board approved the proposed changes to the student handbook.

The USC School Board also:

Congratulated student representative Bethany Koziolek on graduating and began the selection process for a new student representative on the board.

Superintendent Jensen received one applicant, Madeline Hart, a junior.

“Madeline will be a very effective student on the board,” said Jensen. “I believe she is an effective leader to her peers and she even helps conduct traffic in the morning to get students safely into the building. She already has the best interest of students at heart, so I believe she will make an excellent student representative for our board.”

When asked if Koziolek had anything to say to the board about her experience, she said, “thank you for the opportunity, it’s been a lot of fun.”

Was informed of some changes of the teacher mentor-mentee program. The first change was to include teachers who are teaching a new subject or a new grade level with the new teachers at the school.

The second change was to decrease the frequency the mentors and mentees would meet with the mentoring committee.

“Mentors and mentees would still meet at least once a month, but that mentor/mentee pair would not have to meet with the mentoring committee as often,” said principal Schlaak.

Mentoring pairs would meet with the committee once a month during the first semester, then during the second semester, would meet once per quarter.

The next scheduled USC?School Board meeting is set for June 26.