The Glynn County Board of Education may soon consider changing its policy on student cellphone use during school hours.
The school board discussed the matter at its meeting Tuesday, when Jim Pulos, assistant superintendent for student achievement, gave an update on the current policy and suggested ways the board could move forward to address misuse of cellphones in Glynn County schools.
As of now, the school system doesn’t have a clear policy on when cellphones can be used during school hours, Pulos said.
“There are provisions that allow for the principal’s discretion on whether or not phones can be used for instruction or for other purposes,” he said. “The student code of conduct, as well, provides specific provisions that says if they’re not using them for what it is supposed to be used for, then they can be held accountable for it.”
School rules as currently written require that students turn off their cellphones during school hours. Both high schools allow cellphone use during lunch and occasionally in the gym.
And teachers, within their discretion and when allowed by the principal, can allow students to use their phones in class for instructional purposes.
“If they misuse (a phone) … they confiscate the phone, and they’re supposed to have a parent come pick up the device,” Pulos said.
Control of cellphone use is a daunting task, Pulos said. Administrators and teachers have to pick their battles.
“One of the principals reported that he could probably confiscate hundreds of phones on any given day because of a technical misuse the way the policy is written currently,” Pulos said.
He said students who access the school system network use about 48 gigabytes of data daily, on an average of 600 devices.
“That’s a lot of data that’s being used,” he said.
Advantages to allowing cellphones in schools include providing parents with comfort in the knowledge that a student can get in touch with them in emergencies.
Phones can also be useful instruction tools, Pulos said, and provide for quick information searches.
“It is a resource for instruction,” he said. “These devices are amazing in what you can access.”
Issues that arise because of cell phones, however, include the distractions phones create in the learning environment.
Cellphones are also often used for forbidden purposes, Pulos said, such as drug transactions, sexting and cheating. Cyber-bullying is also a pervasive issue, he said.
Pulos recommended the board of education allow school councils to discuss the issue and provide feedback, before moving forward with a potential new policy.
“We’ve asked all of the schools to schedule a meeting … we’re asking them to hold one within the month of August and put this on their agenda,” Pulos said.
Mike Hulsey, school board chairman, said cellphone use in schools is clearly creating problems. He’d like to receive feedback from teachers, administrators and school councils before the board creates a firm policy.
“We all know it’s a problem,” he said. “And if you don’t think it’s a problem, then you might be part of the problem, quite frankly.”