District nixes cell phone use at school

Aim of policy is to reduce texting and 'sexting'

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In an effort to curtail texting during class, Washougal School District administrators have put together a new, detailed cell phone policy for students.

The new policy, which went into effect when school began last week, explicitly prohibits the use of cell phones and other electronic devices during the day, except during lunch and passing periods.

“Students will have to declare their cell phone by taking it out at the start of class and showing it,” Superintendent Teresa Baldwin said. “It can be on at lunches and in the hallways, but it’s subject to disciplinary action if it’s used in the classroom.”

Students who violate the policy risk consequences ranging from not being able to bring their phones onto school property to suspension and expulsion.

In addition, an administrator may confiscate or search the device with any reasonable cause. Content or images that violate criminal laws will be forwarded to law enforcement.

Administrators may also temporarily confiscate student cell phones while investigating a disciplinary incident at school.

Students automatically consent to the search of any electronic device that they bring to school or school sponsored events, when school officials have a reasonable suspicion that such a search will result in finding a violation of school rules.

“The principals are really excited about this policy because it has very clear boundaries,” Baldwin said. “The only place I can see having difficulty is at a school assembly. It’s a pretty big effort to monitor, but at least we’re getting a handle on in-class use.”

Parents are asked to refrain from calling or texting their children on their cell phones during the school day, and to call the main office if they need to send their child a message.

If a student is found to have sent sexually explicit messages or images, known as “sexting,” they will be subject to a search of their phone and disciplinary measures will be taken, up to and including expulsion. The police will also be notified when conduct may violate criminal laws.

For the first offense, parents will be notified, a police report will be filed, and the phone will be confiscated and returned to the student’s parents or guardians, The student will also be suspended. Second and third offenses will result in long-term suspensions and the inability to participate in extracurricular activities. A student will also be expelled for the third-offense.