June 21, 2018
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SAD 29 limits student cell phone use

By Jen Lynds, BDN Staff

HOULTON, Maine — With the possession of cell phones becoming “prolific” in the district, SAD 29 Superintendent Steve Fitzpatrick said Tuesday that the school board spent part of Monday evening considering a cell phone policy for its elementary school students.

The board also discussed revisions to the district’s cell phone policy.

SAD 29 consists of the towns of Houlton, Hammond, Littleton and Monticello. There are an estimated 1,300 students in the district’s four schools.

Since many teenagers have cell phones, the district has guidelines for high school students regarding the possession and use of the devices. School officials before Monday had not adopted a policy for the possession and use of the devices by kindergarten through sixth grade pupils.

That changed Monday evening, when a policy comparable to one adopted for high schoolers underwent a first reading.

“Cell phones are prolific now,” Fitzpatrick said Tuesday. “Everyone has them. We were told that elementary students are bringing them on buses and there have been reports of students using them to take pictures. We’ve had reports of inappropriate use. Since cell phones are everywhere, guidelines need to be put in place.”

Under the elementary school proposal, cell phones are not to be in sight or in use during instructional periods. Students also cannot make or receive calls, text messages, or take photos while on school buses. If a student is riding a bus as part of an extracurricular event, the phones cannot be used unless permission is obtained from a teacher or coach.

“I believe this is a good policy to have in place,” the superintendent said Tuesday.

During the meeting, the board also considered revisions to the district’s cell phone policy, which governs how staffers who have the phones can use them to conduct district business.

The phones are not for personal use, Fitzpatrick added.

Some of the revisions will affect SAD 29 bus drivers.

The superintendent said that bus drivers have the phones, for instance, in case a child gets on the wrong bus or if a last-minute change needs to be made to a student’s pickup or drop-off location.

The revisions will require bus drivers to pull over to the side of the road if they receive a phone call, a move Fitzpatrick said he believed district drivers already had adopted.

A second reading of both proposals will take place when the board meets next month.

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