PARKERSBURG - The Wood County Board of Education is looking at revising its policy on student use of cell phones.
The board met in regular session Tuesday to discuss Policy 5514.11: Communication/Electronic Devices. During Tuesday's meeting the board received very different viewpoints on the policy, including diverging recommendations on how it should be changed.
Parkersburg High School Prevention Resource Officer (PRO) Dan Miller spoke to the board about safety issues surrounding student cell phone use. Miller, who has been the prevention resource officer for PHS for two years, said he has seen cell phones in schools contribute to cheating, bullying, sexual harassment and purchasing of drugs.
Photo by Michael Erb
Parkersburg High School Prevention Resource Officer (PRO) Dan Miller speaks Tuesday to the Wood County Board of Education concerning student cell phones during a time of crisis.
During a crisis situation the phones can lead to other issues, including panic, delays in first responders reaching a school and failure of communication lines, he said.
Miller said he would like to see the policy made more restrictive, with cell phones banned on school campuses.
"I'm saying no cell phones in school whatsoever," he said. "We need to take these hurdles, these distractions that have no reason to be in our schools, out of the equation."
Miller said PHS officials confiscate an average of three cell phones a day, which he says becomes a liability for the administration.
"Some of these phones cost $400 or more," he said. "If it gets damaged (after being confiscated), who is responsible?"
Miller said he believes the school administration supports the idea of a more restrictive policy.
PHS Principal Pam Goots did not attend Tuesday's meeting, but during a local school improvement council presentation Monday was asked about change she would make to the policy.
"I believe students should be able to use them at lunch," she said Monday. Goots said she would be in favor of a less restrictive policy.
Parkersburg South High School Principal Tom Eschbacher also addressed the school board Tuesday, recommending multiple changes to the district's electronics and communications policy.
The current policy prohibits both use and "display" of a cell phone during the school day. Eschbacher said enforcing that part of the policy has become "very burdensome" to administrators.
Under Eschbacher's proposed policy, use of cell phones would be prohibited only during class time, but teachers would have the option of including cell phones as part of their lessons, such as for doing research.
The individual schools also would have more leeway in dealing with violations of the policy. The current policy has four levels of violations requiring confiscation of the phone and eventually suspension.
Eschbacher said while he understands Miller's desire to have a more strict policy in place, he believes a total ban would be unenforceable.
"I don't disagree with anything Officer Miller said," Eschbacher said. "My points come from the view of an administrator and someone who has to deal with the constant cell phone issue."
Board member Tad Wilson said he would be in favor of changes to the policy, but could not agree with students being allowed to use them between classes.
"You are going to create, in my opinion, a more chaotic hallway," he said. "I like the idea of the cell phones being used as an educational tool in the classroom. I would like to give teachers more leeway in using them as an educational tool."
Superintendent Pat Law said he would pull the current policy off of a 30-day public comment period to form a committee to bring a new revised policy to the board.
Law said he would invite both administrators and school safety personnel, including prevention resource officers, to participate in drafting the new policy.