The Robertson County School Board voted to approve a new policy on a first reading at their June meeting, pertaining to students’ use of personal communication and electronic devices.

The rule would allow students in grades 3-5 to bring their cell phones to school. Under the previous policy, the configuration was for only students in grades six through 12.

Assistant Director of Schools Melanie Dickerson, who brought the new policy before the board, stated that many elementary students had been coming to school with phones, even though they’re not supposed to have them based on the current policy. Dickerson recommended the change, moving the limit for students to carry phones down to grades 3-12.

Several board members, including Allan Heard and Scott Rice questioned the decision of limiting the new rule to only third grade and above, and asked if there were any students in youngers grades that had been bringing phones as well.

According to Dickerson, who reached out to a few of the elementary school principals in the district, the numbers varied by school on which kids had phones. While she noted that a principal of a K-2 school had said that some of their kids brought phones, other principals stated that they didn’t have the same issue.

“The real issue for even bringing this policy down to third grade is because a lot of those kids are going home, and nobody’s there. And they have no landline. Nobody has landlines anymore, so the child needs it in order to call and say ‘Hey, I’m at home OK,’” Director of Schools Chris Causey said. “There just doesn’t seem to be that big of a need with a K-2 with those kids because usually somebody either has to be there, or they have to at least be silent.”

Currently, schools in the district that only house grades Kindergarten-through second grade are Robert F. Woodall Elementary in White House and Westside Elementary in Springfield.

“So, we’ve got two schools that are truly K-2. Everybody else is having to deal with a policy for only part of those kids, and not for the others. I just think it’s complicated,” Rice said.

While Dickerson noted that they would entertain the board’s decision to make an amendment for K-12 if they decided to move in that direction, her and Causey stated they were more comfortable starting with third grade.

“It’s hard to believe that we’re even having the conversation about third graders having phones, but I understand too the reality that there are kids that have more than one phone, believe it or not,” Dickerson said. “We have that issue at middle school. Kids will bring multiple phones, and sometimes it’s really hard to control.”

While much of the discussion between the board was focused on cell phones, the policy itself will also pertain to more than just phones, including tablets, gaming systems, and other electronic devices.

Despite calls for an amendment to allow students of all grades to bring phones, the board ultimately settled on the original proposal and voted unanimously in favor of the new policy.

“As long as the teacher has the ability to tell these kids their phones have to be off, or teachers can keep them in a phone locker with chargers and everything available, but it gets the phones out of the student’s hands for the class,” board member Stephen Ayres said. “As long as they have that ability, then I can support this policy.”

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