Dothan City Schools released two cell phone policy revisions in an apparent response to parents and students who felt the consequences outlined in the second draft were extreme.
The second draft got rid of the $25 administrative fee for second-time offenders listed in the first draft, and replaced it with a 90-day referral to PASS Academy, the district’s alternative school.
The first time a student is found using an unauthorized device during school hours, the device will be taken and held for 24 hours by a school official. A parent or guardian will be contacted and expected to pick up the device at the school’s office after a 24-hour holding period.
The third draft includes two revisions of consequences for subsequent offenses.
The first revision mandates a two-day out-of-school suspension the second time a device is confiscated, a five-day suspension the third time, and a 30-day placement in PASS Academy the fourth time. Subsequent violations will result in 90-day referral to PASS. Refusal to surrender a device during any confiscation will be considered a Class III (Code 399) offense, which is an automatic referral to 90 days in PASS Academy.
The second revision removes the two-day suspension step in the progression of offenses. Instead, students will go straight to five days of out-of-school suspension for a second offense. For any and all subsequent offenses, students will be subject to 30 days in PASS Academy.
The third draft includes a provision that would allow students to use their devices at school events. In previous drafts, that was not allowed.
It also provides clarification for devices that are accidentally left turned on by students and emit sounds while not in use. In those cases, if a device is heard, it will be considered accidental unless it occurs more than once. At that time, it will be considered a violation of the personal communication device policy.
Scott Faulk, chairperson of the policy committee, said the committee listened to stakeholders’ concerns at several community meetings he hosted to solicit feedback. He said the No. 1 concern he heard was that the 90-day PASS Academy consequence for the second offense was too harsh.
“What we really want the public and the community to understand is that we believe education is more important than your child being able to use their cell phones,” Faulk said. “We don’t want students coming to the schools to have any barriers in learning – coming from other students or themselves.”
Kayden Martin, an incoming ninth grade student at Dothan Preparatory Academy, said she still feels the penalties in the third draft revisions are excessive.
“I don’t really agree with the punishments because, in the real world, people are able to have their cell phones at all times. We need to learn self-control,” she said.
When a student is serving time in PASS, he or she is not allowed to participate in clubs or extracurricular activities at the school where they were previously enrolled. If they are sentenced to PASS in one semester and involved in a sports team that is active in the following season, a coach can decide whether they are allowed to participate.
Faulk said he plans to bring all three drafts in front of the board for consideration at its next work session on Aug. 15 at Beverlye Intermediate School at 2 p.m.