published Monday, October 31st, 2011

Hamilton County Schools may reconsider cellphone policy

Should students be allowed to bring cellphones into the classroom?

Three strikes and you're out when it comes to students and cellphones in Hamilton County Schools.

But that doesn't sit well with school board Chairman Mike Evatt, who wants to re-examine the school district's cellphone policy in search of something less punitive.

Evatt said he'll likely appoint a committee in November to look at the policy. He said students losing their phones for weeks or months at a time could create a safety concern for parents, who use cellphones to keep tabs on their children.

"When you have a son or daughter, it's your lifeline," he said.

Even if a new policy is drafted, it won't allow cellphones in the classroom, Evatt said. But it might have less severe punishments.

"We just need to look at it and make sure the punishment meets the crime," he said.

But some principals say the policy causes few problems, because parents and students are familiar with the rules.

Hunter Middle School Principal Robert Alford said cellphones generally don't cause a problem there. Most students obey the rules and don't have cellphones out, he said.

But those who are caught using a phone get no warning.

"The warning is, 'This is the policy,'" he said. "They know what it is: Don't have them out."

He thinks the current policy is working but wouldn't protest a change.

"If the school board decides to change the policy, then we'll follow that one," he said.

Shannon Beattie, the mother of three sons at Sale Creek Middle/High School, said she uses cellphones regularly to keep in touch with her kids, especially during sports seasons. If one of her boys lost his phone as a punishment, it would create a problem, she said.


Each campus determines a working policy for cellphones and other electronic devices. Those policies must be approved by the central office. Results of violating the policy are as follows:

• First violation: Phone confiscated for 10 school days

• Second violation: Phone confiscated for 20 school days

• Third violation: Phone confiscated for the remainder of the school year

Source: Hamilton County Department of Education

But because her kids know the rules, she doesn't think it's an unreasonable punishment.

"If they were using it when they weren't supposed to be using it, then I guess they're going to be in trouble with me, also," she said.

Tobin Davidson, principal of Soddy-Daisy Middle School, said students and parents are well aware of the current policy.

"I think the current policy's great. I think it's fair," he said. "We really don't have a cellphone problem, just because the policy is in place."

Soddy-Daisy Middle students are required to keep phones turned off and in their lockers while in the building. Phones are permitted after school, but only outside the building.

Davidson said the school averages about one confiscation a week. But the consequence comes as no surprise.

"They're well aware of the policy here, so it's not like we're springing something new on them," he said.

Because the current policy seems to work, Davidson says he wonders what effect a softer policy might have on cellphone usage.

"If it's not broken on our end, I hate to mess with it," he said.

about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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rosebud said...

Wow, the TFP is only 2 months behind WRCB Channel 3 on this one.

October 31, 2011 at 7:31 a.m.
macropetala8 said...

Wow! For a school system that claims to struggle just to retain students and keep them from dropping out, you sure as he!! do everything you can to find new ways to make sure they drop out. First suspended students if the hem of their skirts didn't pass the ruler test, now this. What next? And we wonder why the dropout rates are so high. dah!

October 31, 2011 at 10:16 a.m.
ldurham said...

So, the writer couldn't find ANYONE who opposes the current confiscation policy? Every parent and principal you interviewed was in favor of it? Wow, you didn't look very far, did you?

October 31, 2011 at 2:50 p.m.
brokentoe said...

I'd rather reward people, young and old alike, for doing right than constantly try to come with excuses to punish them for any and everything.

No wonder we have so many angry young people on the loose these days ready to fight and shoot up anything that moves. This is what happens when everything, no matter how minor, is met with punishment.

October 31, 2011 at 7:02 p.m.
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