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LINCOLN -- Lincoln schools will implement a cell phone and personal electronics policy this year that requires students to turn off their devices and put them away when entering the school campus.

Lincoln School Board approved the policy last week as part of the school district's handbook for 2019-20.

Courtney Jones, high school principal, reviewed the handbook and any changes for board members during their July 15 meeting.

Jones noted that students are not using cell phones during school for educational purposes but for personal use. In addition, she said problems in the social media realm are "ending up in the classroom."

She told school board members that several schools in Arkansas are using this policy and she expects to see more schools going to it in the future.

The policy requires students to store all mobile devices in their backpacks, not in clothing pockets. This will help avoid phantom calls and buzzing that happens frequently during class, Jones said.

Mobile devices will not be allowed in the classroom, library, common areas or restrooms. Students also will not be allowed to use their cell phones during transition times, between classes or at lunch.

Phones can be turned back on and used at the end of the day when the school bell rings.

Jones said she is considering the option to allow her high school students to use their cell phones during lunch. In addition, she said she realizes some students have jobs and will need to contact their employers.

Students who need to make an emergency call during the day will be allowed to go to the school office. The office will be the primary location for all communication efforts between parents and/or guardians and their students during school hours.

"If kids need something, we'll take care of them," Jones said.

The handbook includes disciplinary steps for violating the cell phone policy for grades fourth-eighth.

After the meeting, Jones said cell phones cause a "ton of distractions all day long."

She added, "Kids have an addiction to their cell phones and we're going to have to look at it from that perspective."

Board member Kenneth Albright has talked about limiting cell phone use at a previous meeting. Albright, who is Lincoln police chief, said problems are not of a criminal nature but cell phone use "stirs up drama."

Albright has a 13-year-old and 16-year-old who will be affected by the policy. As a parent, he said he agrees with the new policy, noting "I think kids spend too much time on their phones."

He added, "This is treating them like young adults. This is their job, to be interacting with each other and learning."

The handbook also details a new discipline system this year for fourth--12th grades called a "Step Discipline Plan." A student will be placed on step one after a third minor infraction and will move up a step for any infraction going forward. Each step has disciplinary measures, such as Step 1's discipline is one day of detention and/or a warning.

Major infractions can result in students being placed on a higher step depending on the severity of the offense, up to possible expulsion for offenses such as weapons, assaults or drug-related incidents.

Most of the other changes in the handbook are the result of new legislation passed this year that was signed into law.

One major piece, Jones said, is how schools will handle suspensions and expulsions. The state now is requiring schools to meet education needs for students who are suspended or expelled so they do not lose credit hours.

In other news, the school board approved requests from parents for 11 students to transfer from Lincoln to other school districts. Lincoln also had a net loss of 15 students this year through the school choice process, according to Mary Ann Spears, school superintendent.

Spears said students are transferring for various reasons. Six students are transferring to Prairie Grove, two to Farmington, one to Fayetteville and one to Cedarville.

Lincoln's policy says it will consider requests for transfers from in-district students during July and December.

Rogers School District is one school that does not allow its in-district students to transfer to other districts (except for school choice), and Spears said Lincoln at some point may need to consider whether it will approve such transfers in the future.

She noted that Lincoln's enrollment has gone from about 1,200 five years ago to 1,1o0 at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

Fewer students means less money from the state. After the meeting, Spears said the district is always looking for ways to be more efficient and save money. For 2019-20, the district will be able to reduce some costs by absorbing several certified and classified positions and moving staff around.

"We'll continue to do that until growth happens eventually," Spears said.

The School Board also voted to hold Lincoln's 2020 school election on March 3, 2020, the same day as the preferential primary election.

General News on 07/24/2019

Print Headline: Lincoln Schools To Restrict Cell Phone Use

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