The Coffee County Board of Education approved a new cell phone policy as part of the 2019-2020 student/parent information guide at a special-called meeting on June 26.
The policy currently states that cell phones are prohibited throughout the day at any Coffee County School, including bus routes.
A discipline violation will occur if any student uses a cell phone or is found in possession of a cell phone after first period. The possession rule applies to cell phones on a person, in their purse, book bag, etc., regardless of who actually owns the phone.
Random cell phone searches are allowed.
Cell phones are encouraged to be kept in locked vehicles if brought to campus and must be placed in a student’s locker before first period if brought inside the school.
A principal may give written permission for use of electronics or cell phones in a class for a planned lesson and use on field trips; sporting events and extracurricular activities is at the discretion of the sponsor or principal.
All of this will remain the same but the disciplinary actions taken for violations were changed.
The new policy states on first violation, the phone will be confiscated and the legal parent or guardian may pick it up in the main office at the end of the school day, the student will be assigned one day of “Saturday school” and the student will lose his or her “good standing” status for two full school days.
Phone retrieval will remain the same, but assigned days of “Saturday school” and loss of “good standing” will increase with each violation. The second offense will be two days of “Saturday school,” and seven days loss of “good standing.” The third offense will result in a student being assigned 10 days in alternative school and loss of “good standing” 10 days.
The fourth offense will result in a suspension pending a hearing at the central office.
The loss of “good standing” will start depending on when the cell phone is confiscated. If it’s at the beginning of the day, the loss will start that day, but if it’s at the end of the day, the loss will start the next school day.
The parent/student information guide also added the “good standing” policy that Zion Chapel School instituted last year to lessen the number of unexcused absences.
Other ways to lose “good standing” include owing a debt to the school, getting suspended, getting assigned in school suspension, accumulate five or more unexcused absences in a school, accumulate five or more unexcused tardies in a semester or skipping of any kind.
To be reinstated in good standing, a student must get four teachers to fill out a teacher report form.
However, if a student has lost “good standing” due to a debt, the student will be reinstated as soon as the debt is paid.
District 6 Board Member Eric Payne, asked about the wording of the policy, which he said seemed to say that a first offense would see a student lose “good standing” for three weeks.
Zion Chapel Assistant Principal Lauren Parker clarified that the three-week punishment was only instituted for those who accumulated the five unexcused absences.
Coffee County Schools Superintendent Kevin Killingsworth said that the wording of the policy will be changed in the parent/student information guide to make that more clear.
Since losing “good standing” would prevent athletes from participating in sports and practices, the fear that the policy disproportionally punished athletes was brought up at a June 6 work session. Coffee County Schools Transportation Director DeWayne Hamilton addressed this issue in the June 26 work session preceding the meeting.
“You can lose field trips,” Hamilton said. “You wouldn’t be able to have parent and grandparent dinners at the elementary school, you wouldn’t be able to attend award ceremonies, you wouldn’t be able to attend pep rallies of any kind so we do believe that it does apply to all students.”
Another issue brought up was the implementation of the punishment. The board wanted to make sure that coaches would actually implement the punishment.
Zion Chapel Head Football Coach Randy Bryant told the board that no player who is in a loss of good standing will play.
“We’re handicapping kids for the future if we don’t teach them to meet the standard,” Bryant said. “That’s all it boils down to in my opinion.”
District 7 Board Member Larry Eddins said he felt that policy was punishing the team and other students for one student’s mistake.
The 2019-2020 parent/student information guide was approved with the new cell phone and “good standing” policy. Eddins was the sole vote no.
The next Coffee County Board of Education meeting is July 11 at 5:30 p.m. at the central office in Elba. The meeting is open to the public.