Knox County school board member talks cellphone policy

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – While the Knox County School Board reviewed district policies during a work session, a board member brought up possible changes about cellphone use in schools.

Tony Norman, who serves the third district, offered his revision to the cell phone policy. Norman said the policy needs to be consistent for all grades.

“The current use, regardless of the policy, is so varied. We’ve got some elementary schools that there’s quite a bit of use in. We’ve got some middle schools that there’s very little use in, we’ve got high schools that sort of range,” Norman said.

Current personal communication device policy states that students in grades Pre-K through fifth can have a cellphone on school property, but it must be turned off and kept in a backpack. The school principal can designate when the phone can be used.

Students in middle school can have a cellphone on property and can use them before or after school, but it must be turned off during school hours.

High school students can have cellphones on school property, can use them before and after school, as well as during lunch and in between classes.

Norman believed the policy should limit cell phone use more.

His version discards different policies for the grade levels. The following is the main section of his proposal:

“Students may possess PCDs while on school property. The devices may be used before and after school. At all other times the PCD must be in the off mode. The principal or the principal’s designee may grant a student permission to use a PCD during class time for a specific academic purpose or at other times for other purposes that the principal deems appropriate.”

Norman said students shouldn’t be using cellphones for class purposes either.

“The tech type applications of computers can still be there. You don’t have to have a cell phone for that,” Norman explained.

Some parents said cell phones are necessary for students, in case of emergencies.

“If I need to call one of them in an emergency, I wouldn’t be able to get them. So, for that alone, I think that they need to have their phones and the phones need to be on for you to reach them. What’s the point of having a cell phone if you’re going to have it turned off,” Tereasa Thomas said.

She said if permission has to come from the principal, it could take longer and cause more issues.

Thomas also said students should know that phones are used for communication only, or for class purposes, and shouldn’t be used for socializing or playing games.

However, another parent agreed with Norman, saying that if a parent needs to contact a student, or vice versa, then they should go through the proper channels such as the front office.

“My kids don’t have one cause I don’t think they necessarily need one,” Martin Pleasant said.

Pleasant said his fifth-grader often asks for a phone because his friends have one.

He said his son usually watches YouTube on his tablet, but the tablet doesn’t get take to school, because there is no need for it and it could be a distraction.

“I don’t have a problem with (cellphones at school) as long as it’s not disruptive,” Pleasant said.

He also said anything can become a distraction for students.

Norman said another reason to limit cell phone use is bullying on social media.

If students aren’t allowed to use their phones at all, then online bullying could be prevented during school hours.

Norman said he wants school time to be solely academic without the distraction of technology unless it’s used academically.

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