Parents at Dothan City School board meeting anxious to hear about cell phone policy

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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - In a summer full of changes for Dothan City Schools, another proposal has caught people's attention. The school board is considering a change to the cell phone policy, and it came up at Monday night's board meeting.

Chairman Mike Schmitz started the meeting by clarifying the cell phone proposal:

The policy would only prohibit the "use" of cell phones on all Dothan City School campuses.

Students could still have phones; they just have to be "out of sight, out of mind" all day.

He also said they wouldn't be voting on the policy, or even talking about it Monday, but that didn't stop one student from expressing her thoughts.

Kendall Poteate will have to get used to some changes at Dothan High School this year.

There will only be three grade levels, she'll have to go back to uniforms, and now she may not be able to use her cell phone.

"I use my cell phone during lunch and break to call and make appointments for myself, like doctor’s appointments,” said Poteate. “A lot of students in high school have jobs and they need to be in contact with employers to find out their work hours."

If the school board approves a proposal for a new cell phone policy, Kendall wouldn't be able to make those calls at school, including before and after school, during lunch, on the bus and between classes.

At a work session last week, the director of safety, security and attendance presented the board with the proposal.

At the session, he told the board about the security and learning roadblocks cell phone use presents.

"Our concern with it is how it is being used on school campuses,” said DCS Director Safety, Security and Attendance Scott Faulk. “We addressed cyber-bullying. We addressed the instigation of fighting, using cell phones and recording fights, cheating on tests, those types of things."

Kendall thinks it's going to be tough for teachers to enforce a stricter policy.

"I think that some stricter punishment should be in place and we should enforce the cell phone policy more,” said Poteate. “One of the main problems last year and why there was so much of a problem was because it wasn't being enforced enough."

According to the new policy, on the first violation, the device would be taken for two school days. The second would be two weeks and a $25 fine. The third violation would be 45 days.

Any student refusing to surrender a phone would be sent to P.A.S.S. Academy.

"To charge me to get my phone back, I don't agree with that at all, and then P.A.S.S. Academy for a phone offense, that seems extreme to me,” said Beverlye Intermediate Parent Nesee Rollins.

Kendall thinks there are other issues the board should be talking about other than cell phones.

“Overall isn't as big of a distraction as the kids who come in to class high and skip class to go smoke weed.”

Just to re-iterate, the policy would not prohibit phones on campus, just the use of them.

So long as administrators can't see the device, there isn't a violation.

It does include smart watches and activity trackers as well.

The board has not voted on the proposal yet.

Chairman Mike Schmitz said he's hoping to have a public meeting for parents to voice their concerns before they vote.

Dothan City Schools hasn't announced a date for that.

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