ELBA -- The Coffee County Board of Education discussed a number of updates and revisions to its Board Policy Manual and Parent/Student Information Guide during a work session held prior to its regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday.
One of the more controversial items on the agenda was a proposed update to the school system’s cell phone policy as listed in the Parent/Student Information Guide. According to Superintendent Kevin Killingsworth, the current cell phone policy is outdated and creates numerous problems for the school system.
“The dispositions for cell phone violations were, the first one, we take the phone for two full school days or a one day suspension of the students,” Killingsworth said. “My thing is, it causes problems -- it causes a problem with having to keep up with cell phones and the suspension of the student causes a problem because attendance is a part of our report card grade. So if you suspend a student because of a cell phone, it’s a double whammy to our schools and to our system.”
Killingsworth said he consulted with principals, assistant principals and Central Office administrators to come up with the proposed changes, and all had agreed that the updated policy will be more beneficial for students and the school system.
According to Killingsworth, the new policy would mandate that on the first offense, the phone will be confiscated by a school administrator and the student’s parent or legal guardian will be allowed to pick up the phone from the main office at the end of the school day; the student will be assigned one day of “Saturday school” and will lose “good standing” status for two full school days. On the second offense, the phone will be confiscated and eligible for parental retrieval at the end of the school day while the student is assigned two days of Saturday school and loses good standing status for seven school days.
On the third offense, phone confiscation and retrieval will remain the same as with the first and second offenses; however, students will be assigned ten school days of alternative school and will lose good standing status for those ten school days. The fourth offense will result in phone confiscation and suspension pending a hearing at the Central Office.
Killingsworth said the “good standing” policy was implemented at Zion Chapel School last year to combat chronic absenteeism and helped to keep students in class, as loss of good standing eliminates the ability to participate in any extracurricular activities for the duration of its loss.
“We started this at Zion Chapel this past school year, and it’s called ‘Student Good Standing,’” said Killingsworth. “We had issues with attendance, and our report card grade comes 5 or 10 percent from attendance, so we had this policy enacted where if they didn’t attend school, they were not in good standing and they could not participate in extracurricular activities for a certain amount of time. They had to come to school and stay out of trouble to maintain good standing, and it really helped the attendance. It put some responsibility back on the students to be responsible for their actions.”
Killingsworth added that the days of good standing loss would be determined based on the time the infraction occurs -- if the violation happens first thing in the morning, loss of good standing will begin that day, but if it occurs towards the end of the school day, it will begin the next full school day.
Board President Brian McLeod said that he believes a full definition of good standing should be recorded in the Parent/Student Information Guide to eliminate any confusion over the policy. He added that the policy would be “hard to police,” as loss of good standing bars a student not only from participating in sports or other extracurricular activities but also from attending games, field trips or events as a spectator.
Board attorney James Tarbox advised the board to include a thorough definition of good standing in the Parent/Student Information Guide.