Lafayette School Board member: Review cellphone policy

The school district should consider exceptions to its cellphone confiscation policy since some latchkey kids no longer have telephone lines at home, School Board member Mark Allen Babineaux said.

Babineaux discussed the issue at the board’s meeting Wednesday. He said a parent’s complaint about her child’s cellphone being confiscated led to his concern.

“The situation at home was they don’t have a land line and the high school student and middle school student got home before the parents did and their home had recently been broken into twice,” Babineaux said. “I figured I would ask for an open discussion on what kind of exceptions we had.”

He said the district should consider allowing students to take an in-school suspension or out-of-school suspension rather than having the device confiscated.

The district shouldn’t alter the policy midyear, said Bradley Cruice, the district’s health and wellness director. Cruice’s office oversees student discipline policies, including the cellphone policy. Cellphones may be confiscated if they’re visible, audible or used during school hours. Upon the first violation of the policy, the phone is confiscated for five days, 30 days on the second violation and for the remainder of the school year for the third violation.

Cruice said a committee will review the policy and recommend any changes after the current school year ends.

“We haven’t been making exceptions to that policy. That policy doesn’t allow exceptions because then we get into which case is more severe or less severe,” he told Babineaux Wednesday.

For the current school year, the district revamped its discipline policy to provide alternative interventions to keep students in the classroom, and suspensions defeat that effort, Cruice told Babineaux. A confiscation is an immediate consequence and designed to deter future infractions, he said.

Babineaux said he’d like the committee to consider alternatives to confiscations so the district avoids creating any safety issues for those families who do not have telephone lines at home.

“I do not want to have a child coming home without the ability to contact anyone in an emergency,” Babineaux said.

Cruice said the committee will consider those issues.

“As society goes more electronic, that’s something we’d want to look at in May,” he said. “Do we want to have other alternatives to that confiscation?”

As of Feb. 1, the district reported 886 infractions of the policy on its campuses. Board President Shelton Cobb questioned why some campuses had higher rates of confiscated phones compared to others.

Comeaux High School had the highest number of infractions at 301, according to district records, followed by Lafayette High at 169, Carencro High at 138 and Acadiana High at 103. Northside High had only 14 and Thibodaux STEM Magnet, which is a middle and high school, had 8 infractions so far this year.

Cruice told Cobb the number of students on the campus should be taken into consideration.

The last change to the policy was in January 2012 when the School Board voted for a midyear change that ended a zero-tolerance policy for phones on campus. The policy called for cellphones to be confiscated on the first infraction and allowed for expulsion if the student refused to comply with the policy. For the first half of the 2011-12 school year, 503 violations were reported, school officials have said.