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River Bend school board weighs cellphone change

FULTON – Fulton High School students may earn a little freedom next year when it comes to their cellphones, but it’s not time to start celebrating just yet.

During a River Bend School District board meeting this week, Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Josh Knuth presented a potential policy change allowing high school students use of their cellphones between classes and during lunch, a presentation that was received with mixed reviews from the board.

Knuth explained that out of 10 local school districts that he researched, eight allow a similar cellphone policy for students and have since seen a reduction in behavioral issues in their schools.

“It gives them a little bit of freedom which in turn helps control discipline,” Knuth said. “One thing from the schools that I talked to is that they really see a change in the discipline violations when they went to let their students use cellphones. Hallway disruptions, criminal mischief and those types of activities drop tremendously, at lunch time especially.”

Board member Nick Crosthwaite spoke unfavorably about the policy changes, stating that he felt uncomfortable with allowing the use of cellphones during school hours.

He also added that if the board were to accept the new policy it could be cause for potential conflicts in the future.

“I’m not comfortable with opening it up,” he said. “I can foresee problems once you start opening those gates. It concerns me because of where it goes from there.”

Fulton High School Principal Chris Tennyson understood Crosthwaite’s concerns, but said if the school doesn’t implement the new policy now, there will be a time down the road where they will have to rethink their decision.

“Whether it’s this year, the next year, or the year after, I just foresee a point at some point where there’s going to be too many valid uses for what they can use it for,” Tennyson said.

Not everyone disagreed with the policy changes though and actually supported the idea of allowing students more freedom and responsibility with their actions.

With his support, though, board president Dan Portz reiterated that strict enforcement of appropriate social media interaction and subsequent punishment would need to be increased if they accept the new policy.

“I think it’s one of those things at some point we need to try it,” Portz said. “I do want to make sure that we reinforce the issues that come up with bathrooms and restrooms, whenever you have anything like that, that’s inappropriate, it’s out of our hands and it goes to the law. That’s the only thing that I have. I think we give this a try and you guys come back to us and if we need to address it next year in a different way, then we need to address it a different way.”

Tuesday’s meeting was only the first review of the new student handbook listing all of the school’s policy. There will still need to be two readings and approvals by the board before any new changes will be officially implemented.

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