Phone use in school eyed

Board weighs easing restrictions

concern is noise distraction

Vote set for next month

Policy to encourage moment of silence also considered

January 10, 2002|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Carroll County Board of Education began drafting policies last night that loosen restrictions on having cell phones in school and that encourage principals to schedule a daily moment of silence into the school day.

Students are prohibited from taking cell phones into school - a restriction that interim Schools Superintendent Charles I. Ecker had proposed formalizing into policy and adding as a constraint for staff and visitors.

But the board expressed interest last night in easing the rules to allow students to have cell phones in school as long as they keep them turned off during the school day.

"I don't want phones ringing in school either," board President Susan W. Krebs said. "But the kids who need to communicate, who need the rides home, don't have a car to put [their cell phones] in."

Board members noted that the county is split between two area codes - 410 and 301 - and that even within the same area code, pay phone calls home from a school sometimes are long-distance for students who need to be picked up from team practices, club meetings and other extracurricular activities. Those activities sometimes end after the school has been locked, making it impossible for students to use a pay phone.

Board member C. Scott Stone also suggested the policy allow staff and visitors to have cell phones or pagers turned on if they are switched to a silent mode.

"The intent is to eliminate audible distractions," Stone said. "There are many visitors to our schools who should not be required to turn their cell phones and pagers off."

The board is scheduled to vote on the policy - and a proposal to encourage schools to have a daily moment of silence - at its meeting next month.

Although board member Thomas G. Hiltz suggested the board require a daily moment of silence after the Pledge of Allegiance, the board is considering a policy that only encourages the daily ritual.

Only one or two elementary schools - and no middle or high schools - in Carroll County have a daily moment of silence. Ecker offered the proposal, in part, to let schools know that state law allows them to incorporate a quiet moment of meditation into the school day.

"I think it's a good idea to allow students to sort of be thankful for whatever they want to be thankful for," Ecker said in an interview.

In other business, the board:

Elected officers for the year. Krebs was re-elected to a second term as board president in a 4-to-1 vote, and Susan Holt was unanimously elected vice president.

Making clear that he did not have a problem with Krebs' performance as board president over the past year, Hiltz voted against her election because of the November school board elections. Krebs' four-year term on the board expires in December and her seat is up for election.

"I know the last election was very contentious," Hiltz explained, adding that he thought it was in the best interest of the board that the president not be distracted by four months of campaigning.

But Krebs responded that she isn't necessarily running for anything. "He doesn't have a crystal ball," she said during the meeting.

In an interview, Krebs said she has not made a decision about the election. "I live day to day," she said. "I have no intentions."

Approved a promotion and retention policy that sets passing standards and expands interventions for students who fail or are at risk of failing. The new policy is designed to end social promotions - the informal practice of promoting children regardless of whether they made acceptable grades.

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