Board lays down law on phones at SHHS

The District 55 School Board adopted a new policy and approved a new administrative rule for student cell phones Monday night, and Sweet Home High School Principal Pat Stineff unveiled a new procedure for dealing with violations of the rules.

The new district-level policy and administrative rule changes little from current practices at schools, which generally require cell phones to be turned off during the school day. Violations typically result in confiscation of the phone until the end of the day, often with parents required to pick up the phones.

The new policy prohibits students from using their phones to record “inappropriate or obscene” images or videos while at school or school functions.

The new procedure for dealing with violations of the policy increases the penalty for repeat offenders. Cell phones may be used during breaks, between classes, lunch, before school and after school.

Use of cell phones is prohibited during class, and students are required to turn them off because even on vibrate they are still a distraction to students who feel that he or she must look at every call or text and respond immediately, Stineff said in a letter to parents.

For the first offense, teachers will take the cell phone and return it at the end of the day. For the second, the teacher will confiscate the phone and sent it to the office. A parent will be required to pick it up. For a third offense, the phone is sent to the office, and the student may pick it up on the following Monday.

“We are changing our practice after years of trying to curb student cell phone use in the classroom,” Stineff said. “Texting, receiving phone calls, cheating on tests, ordering pizza for lunch and many more uses are a huge distraction to the educational atmosphere that we want to encourage. Because our current practice is not working, we are going to put a new procedure into effect.”

At SHHS, a student caught using a phone during class may have had the phone confiscated by the teacher, and the phone and student may also have been sent to the office.

The new procedure was set up by a committee of students, teachers and administrators, Stineff said. Students will sign a form stating they understand the new rules.

“Just because they knew this is out there, we’re having far fewer issues with cell phones,” Stineff said.

Two board members questioned whether phones should be allowed at school at all.

“I’d like to know why these students need to have the devices at school at all,” David VanDerlip said, echoed by concerns from Chanz Keeney over valuable teacher time being used to deal with cell phones.

Administrators indicated that cell phones do not take much of their time.

“I don’t spend a lot of time on it,” said Sweet Home Junior High Principal Hal Huschka. He spends far less than 1 percent of his time dealing with them because the rules are cut and dried.

His school requires phones to be off all day. When they aren’t, the school confiscates them for the day.

Since students started becoming aware of the new rules, problems have subsided at the high school, Stineff said, and it doesn’t take much staff attention. Enforcing a no-phone rule would be far more difficult.

John Fassler was concerned about photos taken without permission and then being posted to the Internet.

In the end, the board voted unanimously to approve the new policy. Members asked to be updated on how well the new procedure at the high school is working by the end of the year.

Present at the meeting were board members Fassler, Keeney, VanDerlip, Jason Redick, Mike Reynolds, Billie Weber, Lena Neuschwander, Jenny Daniels and Dale Keen.

In other business, the board:

Approved the removal of the light poles on the varsity baseball diamond. The posts are rotting, according to Maintenance Supt. Ron Andrews. He estimated the cost of removal at $2,400.

Learned that enrollment is up by 13 students from the same week last year, with 2,379 students enrolled in the district.

Only two schools have higher enrollment this year. The Charter School is at 156 students this year, up from 114. Hawthorne is at 320 students, up from 304. All other schools have lower enrollment this year.

Awarded Terrie Miller an Outstanding Driver Award for expertly avoiding a potential accident with a school bus during a cross country trip to Seaside.

Presented the Oregon Library Media Paraprofessional of the Year award to Debbie Pugh.

Announced open Budget Committee seats for five positions, including Foster, Cascadia, at-large, Crawfordsville and Sweet Home.