R-5 schools propose stiffer penalties in cell phone policies

Friday, June 13, 2008

Proposed changes in the Nevada R-5's restrictions on cellular phone use in the schools could mean stiffer penalties for violating the rules.

During a regular meeting Wednesday night, the Nevada R-5 Board of Education spent much time in deliberating about the cell phone policy and other issues in the high school student handbook. Much discussion took place; and in the end, the board voted to table consideration of the changes until the board's July meeting, when a revised list of proposed changes will be brought back to the board.

Principal Bryan Thomsen explained the proposed changes, and the reasons for them, to the board members.

"These changes are primarily driven from our PLC (Professional Learning Committee) process or from the advisory committees from NRTC," Thomsen said.

The board had many questions about the cell phone policy and about the parent's desire to maintain contact with their children. Instead of banning the possession of the phone the board was inclined to "strongly discourage" the practice of bringing the phones to school and banning their use during the school day. It was proposed that the penalties for inappropriate use of the phones be stepped up so that it would only take one infraction to merit an in school suspension.

Thomsen said that the numbers of incidents were drastically reduced when the consequences went up.

"Last year we had about 250 incidents reported, most were for a first offense," Thomsen said. "Some were for a second offense but we just about didn't have any third offenses because that's where the in-school suspension kicked in. They didn't want that. They could put up with coming to the office to pick up their phone after school or even having their parents do it; but they didn't want that suspension."

Board member Nora Quitno pointed out the middle school allows the students to have the phones but not use them and said it ought to be the same across the district and all schools should follow the same policy.

"If we have a policy at the middle school it should be the same as the policy at the high school," Quitno said.

Another change that brought strong response was the eligibility policy. Last school year there were students who were ruled ineligible at the first of a quarter because of only one bad grade. In order to make it less likely that a student would lose their eligibility over a minor, one-time drop in performance the first two weeks of a quarter wouldn't count toward eligibility.

It was proposed to change the requirements for academic letter awards. In prior years freshmen were required to have a Grade Point Average of 3.67 while all other grades only required a 3.5 GPA. To make it less confusing and to bring all requirements into alignment Thomsen suggested changing the freshman requirement to the same as all the other grades.

It was proposed to add Animal Science and Agricultural Business classes to the honor school. Thomsen said the classes have the same academic rigor and are the only two dual-credit classes that weren't also in the honor school.

In other business, Assistant Superintendent Christi Peterson presented the board with a list of the opportunities the district's employees have for professional development. The training includes everything from first aid training to Web page design, with courses available at various times during the summer.

Julie Wilson also made a presentation about the district's mentoring program and said that the district has done very well in helping new teachers to the district acclimate to the existing culture.

The board voted to hold a special session June 25, at noon, to accept the 2008-'09 budget and to finalize the 2007-'08 budget.

The board also voted to move its regular July meeting to July 16 to avoid a conflict with the Vernon County Youth Fair.

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