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Schools and pupils adapt to policies on cell phones



Published: Sun, January 14, 2007 @ 12:00 a.m.



Warren's cell phone ban is for safety reasons, the school resource officer said.

By AMANDA GARRETT

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

Cell phones have become as much a part of contemporary American life as television and automobiles, but increasing numbers of school districts in the Mahoning Valley have some type of rules regulating their use.

At least two school boards in the region have even banned cell phones.

The Warren City Schools board instituted the ban Dec. 12 on the advice of the school resource officers, who said cell phones could jeopardize the safety of pupils and staff in an emergency if most or all students used them to call home.

Parents could clog the roads in and around the schools making it impossible for safety personnel to gain access to the buildings, resource Officer Timothy Brown said.

The cell phone ban has been going well so far, Brown said.

"At first, there were some disgruntled students, but when I explained to them that it's for their safety, they understand and respond," he said.

Brown has already spoken to a group of pupils at Warren G. Harding High School and plans to speak at assemblies there. Brown said he will also send a letter to parents later this month, informing them of reasons for the ban.

Pupils who are caught with cell phones have the phones confiscated until the end of the school day, and they must also attend Saturday school, Brown said.

In Pennsylvania

Sharon, Pa., schools have banned cell phones since 1997, acting Superintendent Michael Calla said.

"They can be a distraction to learning, and there's also the problem of students using them to text message answers for exams, or take pictures of exams," he said.

The Union Area School District in New Castle, Pa., bans all cell phones that take photographs or record video or audio, Superintendent Dean Casello said.

A sampling shows that other school districts restrict cell phone use, but don't ban them entirely.

Lisbon schools have a "common sense" policy toward cell phones that prohibits their use during school hours, Superintendent Donald Thompson said.

"There is a legitimate concern that parents will flood the school, but we had that problem before cell phones were commonplace," he said. "A student brought a gun to school six years ago. The news was all over town in 10 minutes, and parents began coming to the school."

Austintown teachers confiscate cell phones if they go off during class and then return them to parents at the end of the school day, Superintendent Doug Heuer said.

"They haven't been a discipline problem as yet," he said. "It could become a problem in the future because new technology is offering more and more ways to communicate. We'll continue to evaluate the problem and update our policy if necessary."

Emergency situations

Niles schools allow pupils to carry cell phones, but they cannot be visible and pupils are allowed to use them only in emergencies, Superintendent Rocco Adduci said.

The rules have been in place for seven or eight years and they seem to be working well, Adduci said. "We haven't had any problems with cell phones," he said.

Lakeview schools in Cortland have had minor discipline problems with cell phones, Superintendent Robert Wilson said. Pupils are allowed to bring cell phones to school, but they can use them only before or after school hours, according to the student handbook.

"They're not a major problem," Wilson said. "We've had some students receive detention or have their phones confiscated for using them during class or allowing them to go off during class."

Superintendent Pamela Hood said Champion schools do not have a districtwide policy on cell phones.

"We let each individual school handle the discipline," she said. Champion has an elementary school, a middle school and a high school.

Hood said none of the building administrators have reported problems with cell phones so far.

Liberty schools' policy allows pupils to carry cell phones, but not to use them during school hours, Superintendent Lawrence Prince said.

"I find that they're mostly used after extracurricular activities," he said. "Students call after football or basketball practice to get a ride home."

The Liberty Board of Education was also concerned about the use of cell phones in a crisis situation, but it has a different solution for the problem. If an emergency situation occurs, the school will use its broadcast system to ask pupils not to use their cell phones to call home, Prince said.




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