Board approves cellphone policy

Published 11:35 pm Monday, October 14, 2013

Cell phones will become commonplace in classrooms at all three public high schools after Suffolk’s School Board last week approved their conditional use by students during instructional time.

After hearing from principals and an assistant principal on how portable electronic devices are the way of the future, board members voted unanimously in their favor.

The move comes after the board last October approved a pilot program at King’s Fork High School that former principal Suzanne Rice had introduced without its knowledge.


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Thomas McLemore, principal at Nansemond River High, said watching his baby granddaughter navigate an iPad won him over.

“I think: What’s the world going to be like when she gets to high school?” he asked. “This is an opportunity our children deserve. Our kids need to progress and compete with other school divisions.”

Lakeland High School Principal Douglas Waggoner said, “There’s a lot of things they are ready to do that they have been asking to do, and I think it’s time to make that move.”

“We have to think of the technology as a tool,” King’s Fork Assistant Principal Bryan Thrift said. “The kids need to know how to use it and when to put it back in the box.”

The decision Thursday to expand indefinitely to all district high schools a policy giving teachers discretion over student cell phone use in their classrooms came with little commentary or debate from board members who have had a lot to say about it in the past.

Judith Brooks-Buck asked McLemore if his school has equipment for students without a device, to which McLemore responded, “I don’t know many kids who don’t have a cell phone.”

Linda Bouchard said the policy should go beyond just high schools.

Enoch Copeland, as well as Thelma Hinton, his former board colleague who last September brought the King’s Fork pilot to the board’s attention, had previously voted and spoken against the policy.

In June, Rice reported to the School Board that 47 King’s Fork High teachers had begun allowing the use of devices in their classrooms, while 37 had not.

Students use smartphones at school for things like accessing the Web for research, utilizing calendars and receiving alerts, and for receiving, completing and submitting assessments.

School boards across the country — including elsewhere in Hampton Roads — have loosened restrictions on student cell phone use.