ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Duluth Public Schools: Cellphone ban to be lifted for middle schools

The Duluth school district's middle schools are set to officially allow the use of cellphones during certain times of the day beginning next year. The Duluth School Board will vote on a policy change regarding cellphones and their ilk next week, ...

The Duluth school district's middle schools are set to officially allow the use of cellphones during certain times of the day beginning next year.

The Duluth School Board will vote on a policy change regarding cellphones and their ilk next week, along with some changes to the bullying prohibition policy.

Cellphone use is already happening, said Rachel Jackson, assistant principal at Ordean East Middle School. Allowing middle school students the use gives educators the chance to teach digital responsibility, she told board members Tuesday at an education committee meeting.

High school students have been allowed to use cellphones before and after class and during lunch. With the pervasiveness of the technology and the young ages at which kids begin using it, educators thought it was time to include middle schools, Jackson said. Other changes include asking kids to silence phones instead of turning them off while in class and allowing teachers to use smartphones and other electronic devices in class without permission from the principal.

Student board representative Jude Goossens said digital technology is ingrained in the lives of young people.

ADVERTISEMENT

"It's a good thing to have recognition of how important these things have come to be for my age or younger," said the East High School senior, and education about how to be "a good digital citizen" is important.

Parents and kids will be notified of the policy changes.

Bullying policy

A new bullying prohibition policy was approved last year for the start of the school year following new state legislation. The district was allowed to tweak it over the last few months, and did so with community input. The results show a tightening of what was first passed.

There is a greater emphasis on who should report bullying incidents. Everyone who sees it should report it - not just those who are targeted, the new policy says. There is more direction on investigative procedures. For example, an investigation of a report should begin within 24 hours and be completed within 10 days. An investigation can consider the ages and maturity of students, the potential for a reporter to have "culturally" misinterpreted behavior, context of the incident and the relationship between those involved.

There is also appeal process information and more support for harmed students.

The community members involved wanted the policy to be "meaningful," said Ron Lake, the district's climate coordinator.

"We didn't want to check a box and say 'our policy is different now' and have it be a formality," he said, noting the new law directed districts to include community input, and that was taken seriously.

ADVERTISEMENT

Lake provided to the board year-end statistics on reported bullying incidents throughout the district, but cautioned some may still be filed.

Ninety-two incidents were recorded among all Duluth district schools. About half resulted in meeting and working with students, or with students and their parents. Others resulted in detention, or in-school or out-of-school suspension.

State records show that in 2013-14, there were six out-of-school suspensions districtwide for bullying, and this year there were 11.

Lake said the number 92 is probably an underestimate, and reports will probably grow as educators get better at responding to, documenting and addressing bullying. But reports may also be fewer than past years, as people begin to better understand what bullying looks like, he said, and code incidents appropriately.

Related Topics: EDUCATIONSCHOOL BOARD
What To Read Next
The system crashed earlier this month, grounding flights across the U.S.