The Kingston City School District’s Board of Education shared first readings of a pair of revised policies last week, one of which, if adopted, recognizes that cell phones “have educational applications.” The second of the revised policies would lengthen the time allotted.
Policy #5695 covers students and personal electronic devices, and was originally adopted by the Board of Education on July 6, 2017. At the time, the policy broadly forbade students from using personal electronic devices on campus unless they had permission.
“Therefore, to prevent such disruption, the display and/or use by students of cellular phones and/or other electronic devices shall be prohibited from the time students arrive at school until the end of the regular school day, unless specifically permitted to be used by a teacher or administrator,” read the policy as originally written. “Such devices must be turned off and stored out of sight during this time period. The district is not responsible for stolen, lost or damaged personal electronic devices.”
That entire passage has been excised in the revised policy, along with other portions that applied a more rigid ban on the use of portable electronic devices, such as smartphones. What remains is a policy that focuses more intently on the potential academic uses of the devices.
“The Board of Education recognizes that cellular phones & personal electronic devices have educational applications,” reads what remains of an initially longer opening paragraph. The policy would allow students to use their devices with permission from a teacher or administrator provided they access the internet or authorized apps through the district’s internet network.
Misuse of a cell phone or other personal electronic device could still lead to confiscation, with the device either returned to the student or a person in a parental relationship “depending upon the severity of the violation.”
Still in the policy is a passage that disallows entirely a student bringing a device into a classroom or other exam location during testing, unless a teacher gives permission for a cell phone to be used during non-state exams. Not adhering to the rule could result in a student not being allowed to take a test.
“Admission to the test will be prohibited to any student who has a cell phone or other electronic device in their possession and does not relinquish it,” reads the policy.
Three minutes for each speaker
The other revised policy being given a first reading during the School Board meeting held on Wednesday, March 16 related to public comment at meetings. The primary change as recommended by the district’s Policy Committee is the length of time each speaker is allowed to address the School Board.
“We did bring to you the question about whether or not you wanted two minutes or three minutes and that has been adjusted (to three minutes),” said Suzanne Jordan, School Board trustee and chair of the Policy Committee. “We really tried to make it so that the public would feel they were invited and would be heard while demanding respect all around.”
While New York State requires that Boards of Education hold meetings that are open to the public, they are encouraged but not required to allow the public to speak. Like other local school districts, the KCSD has a longstanding practice of holding clearly delineated public comment periods during School Board meetings.
“I think it’s a good policy, and I think we did a better job than the state did,” said Jordan.
Both revised policies will be discussed during the School Board meeting scheduled for Wednesday, April 6.