Friday, August 18, 2006

TOP STORY >>Schools get strict on cell phone users

IN SHORT: Students may carry their phones, but cannot use them during classes.

Leader staff writer

Cell phones are necessary for many busy families and social butterflies to keep in touch but students heading to class Monday should keep their phones out of sight and turned off during the school day.

Cabot has a zero-tolerance rule for cell phone use during the school day.

“No activation during the school day includes text messaging, pictures or checking voice mail,” said Tony Thurman, principal at Cabot High School.

Phones being used during class time are confiscated until the end of the day and first-time offenders are punished with Saturday school, a four-hour detention.

Students who break the rule twice are given in-school suspension for one day. Ever since a five-year-old state law said students could have cell phones on campus after class, school officials have been grappling with the problem of how to keep the phones from being disruptive during class.

Some students may try to dodge school rules by using “mosquito” or “stealth” ring tones that are too high pitched for many adults to hear.

The tones were first created by Howard Stapleton in Great Britain as a way for shopkeepers to annoy teenage loiterers by playing the tone constantly in their stores. The tones vary from a cricket-like chirp to electronic hums and pulses similar to the sounds a computer hard drive makes.

Beebe School District tried to keep problems to a minimum with a rule that students couldn’t have phones on their persons during the school day. But this year, that rule is softened. Students can have the phones on them, but they have to stay turned off and out of sight.

One infraction means the principal tells parents.

Break the rule twice and the phone is confiscated for one week. Break it three times and it is confiscated until the end of the semester.

The Beebe School Board ap-proved the new cell phone rules in June for inclusion in the 2006-2007 student handbook after principals said some students use the phones to text-message test an-swers and to take pictures of test answers.
The Beebe School Board also authorized a ban on using cell phones while driving on campus.
The case against cell phones isn’t simply distraction.

By using text messaging, students may gossip, cheat on tests or start fights. In the Pulaski County Special School District, cell phones are banned from campus during normal school hours with the exception being students enrolled in extracurricular activities.

“A lot of parents want to be able to contact their children in case of emergency and a parent can get an exception for their student by speaking to the principal,” said Brenda Bowles, director of Equity and Multicultural Education for PCSSD.

In Lonoke the rules are very much the same. Any exemptions regarding cell phone use must be for health or other compelling reasons. If a cell phone is found, it will be confiscated and parents must pick it up. A second infraction results in Saturday school, a third offense will get the student three days of in-school suspension.