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School board amends policy regarding personal devices

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Will revisit on July 25

In the Chester County Board of Education’s July meeting, the board first recognized Darlene Goff for earning the YouScience Innovative Educator Award.
The board then approved several TSBA revisions/additions to the CCBOE Policy manual.
The major item on the agenda was a continued discussion on whether or not to revise the CCBOE Policy 6.312 regarding the use of personal devices.
Some comments made by each board member are as follows:
“My vote is no cellphones,” Clay Rodgers said. “I know this may sound extreme to a lot of people, but I see people, every day, all day, with their phone in their hand, and I see how it affects their lives. You’ll see somebody just pick up their phone and just scroll. It’s out of habit. It’s like smoking a cigarette or taking chewing tobacco or drinking a beer. It just becomes so habitual that you find yourselves doing it when it’s not even necessary at all, and it absolutely affects their everyday lives. So we’re supposed to be training people to go into the workforce. This absolutely inhibits their craftsmanship and their ability to be good workers…I think if we have the ability here to make a difference we should take it to do something to possibly change that.”
Ben Cupples said, “Reading over the policy, I absolutely think that is the intent of the policy. The question is, in my mind, are the teachers and administrators enforcing it like the policy reads. I think that’s more of the problem than anything. When this policy was written, it was written with the same mindset you have now, but it’s just become an everyday thing. The teachers are using it, I’m sure, every break they get they’re just as habit forming on Facebook as a student is. So the reality of it is it’s going to take the teachers and the administration to enforce it no matter what policy you come up with.”
Cupples later added, “Students’ unauthorized use of the device will result in disciplinary action period.”
Shane Connor said, “And if you don’t have them period, they’re going to sneak them there, and you still have the disciplinary problems.
Connor also stated, “I think there are justifiable times. It’s not 1993 or 1994 or 1995; it’s a different world, and you’re talking about getting out of high school and going to work and if we don’t discipline them now not to use it, so they know not to use it when they go to work. Right now, if you make them not have it, you’re not teaching them the discipline, a self-discipline, on when to have it out or to listen to a authority figure when a teacher says to not have it out. So, they get out into the real world they haven’t learned that discipline of obeying the rules as said, and the rule as said will be that the teacher enforces the rules and therefore their learning discipline and not being forced upon it.”
Becky Hutcherson explained, “To me this is a very grey area. It’s hard to be black and white. I don’t want somebody messing with me with what my kid does with their phone. I don’t know. I’m on the fence with all of it, and I feel like we’re gonna create a war with the parents probably. It will be a war just as big as it was back in the COVID days of ‘You better wear a mask and don’t come without it,’ and the parents were all in our faces. It will be the same. We’re gonna see that cycle again. This is going to create a war if we say no cellphones.”
Jeff Harris shared a similar view with Rodgers.
After hearing that some use their devices for dual enrollment courses, Harris said, “So most of the reason to be able to use personal whatever is usually geared toward dual enrollment it sounds like, so with that being said, middle school and junior high, I asked a teacher and a couple administrators, and they said there’s no place for them there. Both of them. Middle school and junior high. They said, ‘What do they need a cellphone for?’ All it is that I can imagine being that kid without a cellphone it would have been terrible. So for that matter, is there any way to eliminate the ability for the most part out of people’s pockets at least?”
Board member Brandy Cherry said, “I think some of the students, I know in my daughter’s case, she prefers to use her personal device in dual enrollment, her laptop as opposed to the ones at school. She’s familiar with it. She uses it at home and uses it at school. A laptop is still considered a personal device.
“And then you have your smart watches, too,” added Director of Schools Troy Kilzer.
A motion by Rodgers with a second by Harris occurred “to not allow cellphones to be out during the school hours. From 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Let it be in a bag, their pocket or their vehicle or powered off.”
There was roll call vote of four in favor of the motion and two against it.
Board members who voted to leave the policy as is were Connor and Cherry.
Board members who voted to make the change were Rodgers, Harris, Cupples and Hutcherson.
However, after following up on the meeting with the bord members, Director of Schools Kilzer said that there was never a full understanding on what the motion was due to discussion on the issue also being made between the motion and roll call vote along with more discussion after the vote.
“With the most recent vote taken at the July 6 meeting regarding the availability and access of students’ cell phones/personal devices during the school day, the motion voted on was not fully understood at the time of the vote by all CCBOE members. It has been the decision of the CCBOE to review this matter again at this special called meeting prior to the start of the 2023-24 school year,” Kilzer stated.
The special-called meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 25, at 7 p.m. at the Chester County High School cafeteria.
In other business Kilzer mentioned that, due to the school system operating on last year’s budget because of the county operating on a continued budget until the end of August, all raises that have been added will happen, but it will not happen right now until the approval of the county budget in August.
“We will retroactively adjust that, so no one will lose two months’ worth of extra seven percent. They won’t see it yet until the budget’s approved,” he said.

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