​School Board Considers Amending Cell Phone Policy

Renames Stadium Drive

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
At the Dec. 11 school board meeting, the Student Advisory Council asked the board to amend the current cell phone policy which forbids all use of cell phones on school premises during the school day. In other business the board voted to change the name of the road adjoining the Franklin County High School stadium from Stadium Drive to Rebel Drive.
More than 20 high school and middle school students representing the Advisory Council attended the meeting. Spokesperson for the group, high school senior Leanne Turpin pointed out the cell phone policies of Tullahoma and Moore, Coffee, and Lincoln counties allowed use of cell phones in certain areas of the school and encouraged teachers to incorporate use of cell phones in the curriculum.
“Technology is here to stay,” Turpin said. “Instead of pushing technology out, we need to embrace it.”
The students asked for a six-week trial allowing use of cell phones in the hallways before school and during class changes; during breakfast and lunch in the cafeteria; and in class at teacher discretion.
Board member Christine Hopkins observed students frequently used their phones for research.
Under the current policy, students phones are confiscated for failure to comply and can be returned if a $25 fine is paid. Students in violation who refuse to relinquish their phones “will be automatically sent to the Alternative School for twenty (20) days.”
“During the second semester of last year, 50 percent of the students in alternative school were there for phone related issues,” Turpin said.
The Advisory Council recommended graduated penalties and fines for first, second and third time offenders, with the most severe punishment being in-school detention or suspension.
Board member Gary Hanger took issue with returning phones to students who paid a $25 or higher fine. “It’s discriminatory for students who can’t afford $25,” Hanger said.
Board Chair Cleijo Walker asked Director of Schools Stanley Bean to poll school principals on the issue. The board will revisit amending the cell phone policy in January.
Franklin County High School Principal Roger Alsup asked the board to authorize changing the name of Stadium Drive to Rebel Drive. Alsup cited the name change as facilitating giving directions and as a way to “instill a sense of school pride.”
“I’d rather see the name changed to something to honor someone,” said Sewanee school board representative Adam Tucker.
“That would open up a can of worms,” Walker said, pointing out there were many people the community might want to see recognized.
The board voted in favor of the name change with Tucker opposed.
Revisiting November’s discussion on the Advanced College Placement policy, the board considered an amended policy based on the Tennessee School Board Association policy which reads, “An academically gifted high school student may complete the twelfth grade in an institution of higher education or participation in the course of an institution of higher education.”
Questioning the language, board member Leichty argued an intellectually “gifted” student might not perform well academically.
Tucker proposed changing the wording to “academically advanced.”
The board approved the suggested revision and adopted the policy as amended.
Taking up a proposed amendment to the Extended School Programs policy which required only one person to be on duty, Walker objected. “What if the person needs to leave the room?”
Extended School Programs supervisor Patty Priest explained state guidelines allowed only one person to oversee a program provided there was another school employee in the building. “Some programs only have three or four students,” Priest said. “It isn’t cost effective to require two people.” The alternative would be to cancel programs with just a few participants.
Leichty expressed concern with requiring only one adult attendant. “I’m not sure this will cover us if we have issues.”
Tucker cited the state adult-child ratio guidelines which require a second adult if more than 12 children are on the site. The board adopted an amended Extended School Programs policy which allowed for only one program leader, but required two adults to be on the site if more than 12 children were present.
The board decided to abandon the practice of holding working sessions the week prior to the board meeting unless urgent matters required lengthy discussion. Bean proposed a workshop in January to address questions about the proposed consolidated middle school and the future of Townsend School.
The board’s next regular meeting is Jan. 8, 2018.