​Schools’ Cell Phone Policy Changes Likely

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Dec. 9 meeting, the Franklin County School Board considered altering the disciplinary action prescribed by the new cell phone policy. The board also reviewed and approved the request for a change order to cover the cost of repairing sinkholes at the South Middle School construction site.

The disciplinary procedures called for in the new cell phone policy approved at the November 11 meeting were largely unchanged from the prior policy. Students in violation of the policy could pay a $25 fine or have their phones confiscated for seven days. Students refusing to relinquish their phones would be sent to the alternative school for 20 days. The new policy added phone confiscation for 20 days for the second offense.

The Tennessee School Board Association legal department and Franklin County Schools’ attorney Chuck Cagel both objected to the disciplinary procedures, said Assistant Superintendent Linda Foster.

Cagel took issue with charging a fine and with the school holding the students’ property, which could be lost or damaged while in the school’s possession resulting in liability.

According to Foster, Cagel observed “the courts like tiered consequences.” Cagel recommended a tiered disciplinary procedure for cell phone violations: first offense, phone held for the remainder of the day, to be returned to the student; second offense, phone held for the parent to pickup at the end of the day; third offense, student is not allowed to have a cell phone for the remainder of the school year.

“The policy needs to have consequences beyond the third offense,” said school board member Linda Jones.

School board member Chris Guess recommended the student be sent to the Alternative School for 20 days.

School board member Sara Marhevsky suggested the less severe consequence of in school suspension.

“Violations beyond the third offense indicate defiance and disrespect,” Jones noted, echoing other board members.

Weighing in on the discussion, Franklin County High School Principal Roger Alsup said, “I’ve never been in a district that fined kids for cell phones…it’s not that big of a problem. I haven’t had any requests from teachers for in-class cell phone use since the policy went into effect.”

Foster will incorporate the recommended changes and present them to the board for review at the next meeting, Jan. 13.

Repairing and grouting the three sinkholes discovered at the South Middle School construction site will cost $465,813, Director of Schools Stanley Bean said in presenting the change order request. The $5 million in uncommitted funds in the middle-schools construction budget will cover the expense. The sinkhole repair will not raise the cost of the two new middle schools above the $48 million total budget approved by the county commission.

Raising a question brought by middle school alumni, Bean said the alumni had asked what would be done with the bricks from the demolished buildings. Bean will meet with them to discuss the possibility of using the bricks for a fundraiser and to seek input about involving the alumni in the ribbon cutting ceremony for the two new schools.