STMA policy would allow limited use of students’ electronic devices

STMAknightThe St. Michael-Albertville School Board reviewed a first reading of a new Student Use of Personal Electronic Devices policy, which would allow some use of devices like cell phones for educational purposes.

The school district has a policy under student discipline that specifically addresses cell phone use in schools, but the policy had not been updated for some time.

“So out of this comes a new policy for student use of personal electronic devices,” Supt. Jim Behle later said. “It covers use of cell phones, tablets, I-pads, notebooks and e-readers.”

The school board reviewed the first reading of the policy. The board had already reached consensus on acceptable uses of electronic devices at the primary, elementary and middle school levels, but at the board meeting addressed such devices at the high school level, also.

At the elementary schools, students cannot use electronic devices. There is a provision that a principal can approve devices if it’s for an educational benefit, mostly from e-readers and tablets.

At the middle schools, students are not allowed to possess personal electronic devices during the school day. The principal can case by case approve e-readers and tablets for educational benefit, but cell phones are not to be used during the school day. The middle schools allow before and after school use of devices.

At the high school level, the board discussed instructional uses for personal devices, including smart phones.

“Discussion was do we allow (high school) students in the classroom to use these devices,” Behle said. “That was the focus.”

Current policy allows students to use cell phones during passing times and at lunch, and before and after school.

The board did decide that high school)students could use their cell phones for limited use in the classroom. For example, a student can take a picture of a dissected frog in biology class and use that as a study guide.

“We recognize there are some effective uses,” Behle said. “It’s teacher directed when students can and can’t use the phones.”

Students wouldn’t be required to have cell phones, but can use them just a tool if they are available.

“The biggest discussion was are we going to allow cell phones in the classroom? The answer is yes, under these pretty restrictive parameters,” Behle said. “We’re trying to find that balance between use of technology and educational benefits.”

Behle said the board would have its second reading of the policy Aug. 5, and would most likely approve the policy then.

In other action, the board:

HEARD that 2013-14 student lunch prices would remain the same at $2.20 for kindergarten through grade four; and $2.35 for grades five through 12. The district in recent years had to increase the lunch prices due to federal requirements, but was able to obtain a waiver this year.