First day of school in Dothan

Students enter Dothan High School during the first day of classes on Tuesday morning.

The Dothan City School Board unanimously passed a “bell-to-bell” cellphone policy that prohibits the use of any personal communication device by students during school hours, effective immediately.

The rule, which the policy-making committee has contemplated for two months now, has gone through several rounds of drafts.

Superintendent Phyllis Edwards made a final recommendation at Monday night’s board meeting to move ahead with draft IIIB of the device policy.

Under the new rule, which is now part of the system-wide code of conduct, students will have to surrender their device to a school official the first time they violate it. Their phones will be held for a 24-hour period, at which time parents or guardians will be able to retrieve the device from the main office.

For the second offense, students will face five days of out-of-school suspension. The third offense, and any subsequent offenses, will land a student in PASS Academy for 30 days.

Refusal to surrender the device at any time will be considered a class III (code 399) offense, which is an automatic ride to 90 days in PASS.

“We’re not trying to see how many kids we can punish with this policy,” said Scott Faulk, chairperson of the cellphone policy committee. “What we’re trying to do is make education the No. 1 priority while kids are at school.”

Faulk held two rounds of community meetings to solicit feedback from parents and students. While the first round drew small audiences, the second garnered the attention of over 100 concerned individuals.

The second draft of the policy outlined a 90-day ticket to pass for a second-time offender. Many parents felt the punishment was “extreme.”

Faulk said he used their feedback to help form the final versions of the policy. Draft IIIA included a progression of consequences starting with confiscation, then two days of suspension, then five days of suspension, then 30 days of PASS, and finally 90 days of PASS.

Board member Chris Maddox said he favored draft IIIB because he felt like it was the more lenient option and one that was the most enforceable by administration, though he still had concerns.

“It looks like a kid can make a mistake without getting severely punished,” he said. “I do have concerns that the cellphone policy is not enforceable during class changes, but I have all the confidence in the world that our administrators are able to get out there and make sure the policy is followed.

“I think expectations from home help kids abide by the policy as much as the policy itself.”

The new policy does allow for students to use devices at school events, which was prohibited in the second draft.

Administrators will visit classrooms upon schools’ start to inform students and teachers of the new code.

Dothan City Schools new standard is not unlike many surrounding districts that are moving to a more probative stance on cellphones such as Henry County, Daleville City, and Cullman County school systems.

Other action items:

*The school board passed a $72 million budget proposal for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, which will begin October 1.

*Approved a $30,000 contract with Patti Ruland Jazz Company for dance instructors to teach dance classes during physical education classes. The schools involved are: Beverlye Intermediate, Carver School for Math Science and Technology, Girard Primary, Girard Intermediate, Faine Elementary, Heard Elementary, Hidden Lake Primary, Highlands Elementary, HeadStart, Kelly Springs Elementary, Selma Street Elementary, and Morris Slingluff Elementary.

*Approved a contract with the Wiregrass Museum of Art to provide instruction, workshops, and field trips to the museum primarily with the A+ signature schools: Hidden Lake Primary and Beverlye Intermediate. The amount is not to exceed $50,000 to be paid with Title I funds.

* The board approved a partnership with Southeast Health Foundation to establish the Southeast Health Academy

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