School revises phone policy
Kailua Intermediate OKs limited cell-phone use after a collapsed ceiling causes chaos
Kailua Intermediate School overhauled its policy on student use of cell phones after rumors spread rapidly when a classroom ceiling fell on a dozen students in January 2005, said Principal Suzanne Mulcahy.
Students used their cell phones, and at least a hundred parents rushed to the school worried that their children might be injured, Mulcahy said.
So Mulcahy came up with a way to try to make sure students pass on correct information in cell phone conversations. She crafted a "happy medium" between a ban and free use of cell phones.
Mulcahy changed the ban to allow students to ask permission from the principal before using cell phones. And what they can tell their parents is written down on the blackboard to ensure the accuracy of their reports, she said.
"We realized with phones on campus, it was a serious safety issue for us. Rather than kids coming to the office to report their concerns, they were calling their parents," or they would call their friends or adult relatives to come on campus and play "village vigilante ... if someone was giving them stink eye," Mulcahy said.
"We need to know what is happening in school. If they are being harassed, we will deal with the suspect. If they call their parents, they come down angry because they hear only the child's side of it, and we have no idea what is happening," she said.
The current policy is "If we see it or hear it, it's ours," and the phones are locked in the school safe if a student violates the rule. Offending students have detention after school; after the second violation they suffer two detentions, and after the third they are suspended. "We only had one repeat offender last year," she said.
Phones may be turned off and kept in backpacks until after school, she said.
Each school in the state is responsible for setting its own guidelines and penalties for violations, but the stringency in enforcement varies. In most schools the use of phones, including the practice of text messaging, and other electronic gadgetry such as iPods and Walkmans, are not allowed during class.
Larry Kaliloa, principal at Kaiser High School, said the phones have to be off during class time, including assemblies and field trips. They can be used during recess and lunch periods. The school does not have a major problem with violations when the teachers stay on top of it, he said.
So far there have been a few instances of students threatening others through text messaging, but no one has been caught cheating with the device, he added.
Al Carganilla, Kaimuki High vice principal, said phone violations are not prevalent on his campus. "We have more trouble with iPods and Walkmans," he said, adding that kids who are text messaging during class claim they aren't actually using it, and the most chronic offenders are guilty of sneaking on an earpiece connected to their iPods and Walkmans.
The frequent theft of these items is another headache, he said.
At Kaiser and Waipahu High, phones are seized by the administration after two violations. Phones are held until the end of the year, said Waipahu Vice Principal Corinne Fujieda.
A random survey of other schools, including Farrington, Kamehameha and Waianae, indicates cell phone use is not a problem.