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Spring Hill school board continues cell phone use discussion

Whether or not the school board will tackle a formal policy shift or keep things as they are is up in the air.

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USD230File

The Spring Hill Board of Education has continued to pursue options to address cell phone usage in secondary level classrooms, but hasn’t yet landed on a concrete path forward. 

“Everybody agrees that it’s districting,” superintendent Wayne Burke said, a self-professed “jerk” about cell phones back when he was a principal. 

This issue in particular first popped up at the end of April when the board started talking about possible rule changes focused on making it easier for teachers and establishing a codified enforcement policy for students based on how many times they’re caught with their phone when it should be put away. 

Last month, USD 230 staff also presented a survey given to teachers about cell phone usage. The results outlined the general feeling at the secondary level that cell phone usage in the classroom is distracting to varying degrees and that educators at that level, for the most part, would support more strict rules from the school board. 

Discussion during the school board meeting this week, though, looped in some student representatives and included data from a parent survey, rendered inconclusive results. Beyond limiting cell phones, conversations have also raised the issue of other technology in the classroom, like district-provided computers and personal smart watches, that can more or less function like cell phones. 

STUDENT AND PARENT INPUT 

Coral Callen, a senior at Spring Hill High and a member of the student superintendent advisory council, was at the board meeting to present before the board about council conversations, but also spoke about cell phone use. 

“It seems like it just the easiest solution to just get rid of them,” she said, “which honestly, I agree, I kind of wish we could just chuck them out the window — it’d be nice. But honestly, it’s become such a normal part of our lives that you can’t just take it.”

She said having rules limiting phone use could be good, so long as they’re strict enough.  

Additionally, parent survey results indicate families are generally opposed to an outright cell phone ban. About 70% of participating parents said they’d be opposed to “prohibiting cell phones in school.” In light of that data, Nicole Melius wondered if a policy change would even be effective if parents don’t support it. She was specifically concerned about a situation that could arise if parents told their kids to just ignore the rules, which could cause more distractions in the classroom. 

NEXT STEPS 

Whether or not the school board will tackle a formal policy shift or keep things as they are is up in the air. There is agreement at this time among most parties that cell phone policing is as much of a distraction to learning as cell phones, but there’s no consensus, at least yet, about what kind of change, if any, could really solve that. 

“Whatever we do, it’s not going to solve every problem, but if we could do something that would help kind of put a fence around it, I think it would be helpful,” board vice president Sharon Mitchell said. 

If the board did ultimately decide to take on the issue and vote on changes, one of the key considerations would be to make sure the middle schools’ rules are in agreement, as the nuisance and electronic device policies in the handbook for the Spring Hill Middle and Woodland Spring Middle vary as they stand. 

The school board may also look to tighten up the policies system-wide, looking at ways to potentially make the rules more restrictive and the punishments more harsh. No votes were taken on the issue during the USD 230 board meeting Monday evening. 

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