Many parents feel the Dothan City Schools’ second cellphone policy draft includes a punishment that is a bit extreme.
The second draft of the policy states “If a student is guilty of unauthorized use of the device during school hours or school events, the device will be confiscated by the school official. The parent or guardian will be contacted and expected to pick the device up at the school.”
Director of Safety, Security and Attendance Scott Faulk, chairperson of the personal electronic communication device policy committee, clarified that the device would be held by officials for a period of 24 hours.
Subsequent violation of the policy or refusal to surrender the device when asked by a school official will be considered a Code of Conduct Class III, Code 399 offense with a consequence of 90 days at PASS academy.
“Students guilty of this level of offense for violation of this policy shall also lose their privilege to possess any electronic device on campus for the remainder of the school year, and may be subject to random searches of their possessions to ensure compliance with this prohibition,” the draft states.
Around 80 parents and students attended a 6 p.m. community meeting hosted by Faulk at Beverlye Intermediate School to discuss and debate the tenets of the proposal draft.
“I think it is really excessive just for the second time,” one mom stated, among approving nods and chatter from other parents.
Kendall Poteate, an incoming sophomore, said the draft in its current state left too many matters open to interpretation and said she thinks the policy could be re-written to address specifics.
“Will it be considered using a phone if just the sound goes off?” she asked.
Faulk later answered that a phone ringing would be considered a violation of the policy, because it causes a distraction and interruption in the classroom.
Poteate also said she does not believe a second violation of the cellphone policy should be a Class III offense because, more often than not, the punishment does not align with the damage caused by violating the policy.
She used several secondary Class II offenses listed in the 2019-2020 Code of Conduct as examples such as sexual misconduct, possession or use of tobacco products, bullying, leaving campus without permission, and use of racial slurs or derogatory statements.
According to the written code, a second violation of any of these offenses will earn a student two to four days in ISS (In-School Suspension). Poteate said violating the proposed cellphone policy rule is a less serious offense than many of the above offenses with softer consequences.
“The way this policy is written, I can go and get caught smoking twice and get two to four days of ISS,” she said. “But, if I get caught using my cellphone for any reason during non-instructional time two times, I’ll go to PASS Academy for 90 days, half of the school year.”
Likewise, unauthorized use or operation of a computer is only a Class I offense, she noted.
Kendall also shared a common sentiment of the night’s discussion. The “second strike and you’re out” policy would cause PASS to be overcrowded and eventually result in an inability to be enforced.
“It’s going to be a mess. It’s going to be a disaster. It’s going to be a waste of time,” said one parent who identified herself as a single mother. She agreed with keeping phones out of students’ hands during the day, but said the punishment for offending is not enforceable.
Jennifer Poteate, a Hidden Lake Elementary teacher and single mother of three, said that it is important for her to coordinate plans with her children, who will attend three different schools starting late August, as they often change throughout the day.
She suggested that there be a supervised place and/or time students can go to use their digital devices. That will give students and parents another opportunity, in addition to before and after the bell rings, to rally in the middle of the day.
Other parents noted that practices and schedules often change throughout the day and they feel it is important to have the ability to be in touch. Some parents also said calling or emailing the school is sometimes not efficient because the message to the student does not always get to them.
Faulk listened to the concerns of parents and students at the meeting and said he would relay their concerns to the personal electronic communication device policy committee, made up of DCS stakeholders.
The school board has yet to vote on the provisions, but could revisit it on Aug. 15 at its next scheduled work session and board meeting at 2 p.m. at Beverlye Intermediate School.