What’s changing about phone policies at Prince Edward schools?

Published 7:26 am Tuesday, June 13, 2023

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FARMVILLE – Fewer students will be able to use their phones on campus at Prince Edward schools in the fall. They’ll also be limited in how to use them. During their meeting last week, the Prince Edward County School Board sketched out plans to update both the cell phone and dress code policies for the 2023-2024 school year. 

First, the phone policy took up the bulk of the discussion, as staff and board members said phones on campus caused more problems during this school year than the dress code. 

The proposed policy, which would take effect for the upcoming school year, includes no video recording or photography on school premises, with a couple exceptions. Yes, students can take pictures during sporting events and yes, they can document school-sponsored activities. But that’s all. If this passes a second read next month, students won’t be able to take pictures or film during any part of the regular school day. 

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According to Director of Support Services Richard Goode, this rule has come about due to students taking videos in the bathroom and sending them to each other as well as students taking random videos that cause other issues. 

“We’re just trying to avoid people just pulling their phones out and recording and taking pictures of people whenever they feel like it,” said Goode.

There was some debate, however, before board members agreed to the “no photography or video” part. School board members mentioned how sometimes students document what actually happened in certain instances and it’s nice to have that evidence. Others questioned if this applied to sporting events or when some students need to take pictures for the school during events. 

The board decided to change the wording of the first rule to allow pictures and recordings only during school-sponsored activities.

Prince Edward schools make other changes

One other major change limits phone calls and texting. Only high schoolers will be able to use their phones, and only during the lunch period. As for why middle schoolers aren’t included, Goode said he talked to the middle school staff and they did not want to let the middle schoolers use their phones yet. All phones must also be kept on silent throughout the school day and no one, not even high school students, can use their phone in the hall between classes. 

If a parent or guardian needs to contact their student, they can do it during the lunch period. Or, if there’s an immediate need, they can call the front office. When there’s a problem, if a student violates any of the rules mentioned above, then if the policy is approved, teachers would be able to take the phone and hold it until the end of class. 

“For the policy, we changed some of the terminology,” said Goode. “I think the original one had ‘confiscate’ in there so we softened it a little bit and said the teacher can ‘hold’ the phone instead of ‘confiscate’.” 

Let’s talk about dress code 

For the dress code, only some terminology was changed for Prince Edward schools. Goode told about how a young lady informed him that the rule about crop tops didn’t make sense as it stated that the bottom of the shirt had to be at least one inch below the navel. She informed him that that was not a crop top but a normal shirt and showed him what a crop top is. Some changes were made to keep the terminology accurate.

“In our yearbook, students are saying that they are very happy with the changes in the dress code,” said Goode. “I have never seen that before in all my years.”

Some students are pushing the dress code rules but for the most part, students are following the rules and it hasn’t been a substantial issue. 

One addition was that the dress code does apply for formal and semi-formal events. Since this can be hard to follow for most dresses to have appropriate straps, these dresses can be worn with a shawl or other covering. 

“There seemed to be some confusion about whether or not the code of conduct applied to all school-sponsored events,” said Superintendent Dr. Barbara Johnson. “It applies to all school-sponsored events.”