REGION — Tombstone Unified School District is getting more consistent about enforcing consequences when students do not follow district policy while using digital devices.
While Bisbee and Sierra Vista Unified School districts also have electronic device policies in place, all three districts vary in how policies are enforced.
“Our policies and consequences have been spelled out in district policy for a number of years now and are communicated to students during their advisement classes at the high school,” Tombstone High School Principal David Thursby told TUSD governing board members during an August board meeting. “This year, we’re going to be more consistent in enforcing the rules.”
While outlining the district’s electronic device policy, Thursby told the board that students will be allowed to use electronic devices while riding to school on the bus, but once the first bell rings at the start of the day, those devices have to be powered off before they enter a building.
“The exception is in classrooms where teachers are using the devices for research or other educational purposes,” he said. “Once the research is completed, they have to power those devices off.”
Thursby said the administration team’s philosophy behind the policies is to eliminate as many distractors in the classroom as possible.
“We believe there is a time and place for everything,” he said. “Allowing students to use their devices while on campus during the specified times is a privilege we are offering our high school students, but we will take this privilege away if they abuse it.”
While Tombstone High School students are allowed to power devices on during lunch, it’s a different scenario for the Walter J. Meyer and Huachuca City School campuses.
“We’re requiring that all electronic devices be powered off and in backpacks from the time the first bell rings until the last bell at the end of the school day,” said Huachuca City School Principal Kevin Beaman. “There are no exceptions. Students are allowed to use their electronic devices on the school bus to and from school, but not while school is in session.”
Tombstone also has strict consequences for offenders, including having to serve 15 hours of community service and having a parent retrieve the device from administrators after the third violation.
Bisbee High School also limits device usage in the classroom.
Darin Giltner, principal at Bisbee High, said students are free to use their cell phones before and after school, and during passing periods as they move from one class to another and at lunch.
“When students arrive to a classroom, their electronic devices are to be silenced and stowed,” he said. “In every one of our classrooms we have signs — green if they’re good to go and red when personal electronic devices are not necessary — and students are required to follow those signs. We also have a sign that says ‘Please put away your electronic devices. They’re not needed for today’s learning activity.’”
When there are violations, phones are confiscated by the teacher, turned over to administration and returned to the students at the end of the day.
“These policies are working so far,” Giltner said. “They give teachers the authority to make decisions based on their learning activities and lesson plans while allowing students to learn how to use a necessary tool in this day and age.”
Sierra Vista Unified School District Assistant Superintendent and Director of Curriculum Terri Romo said, “Obviously while we’re concerned about acceptable use of our materials, but there’s nothing that has gone on to cause us to adjust our policies or our procedures. We’ve had the ‘One-to-One’ initiative, with technology rolling out at the high school and middle school last year, as well as elementary school this year.”
The district’s One-to-One initiative allowed for the distribution of Chromebooks to students across the school district, which came through bond funds under information technology.
SVUSD Instructional Technology Coordinator Kathryn Wright explained that parents and students sign acceptable use policies every year when it comes to the district’s electronic devices. “They follow the district’s guidelines and say they will use our technology appropriately,” she said.
Wright said, while there are consequences for misuse, they tend to be generic.
“It’s because they generally turn into a behavioral issue that already fits into a discipline matrix that school sites already have in place,” she said. “We have things like parent notification, in-house suspension, out-of -school suspension and loss of technology use and privileges, as determined by the site.”
“When it comes to cell phones, some teachers use them as an added resource,” Wright said. “But the Chromebooks have worked out well for our district. The teachers went through training to learn how to use the technology and the Chromebooks have been a really positive experience from the get-go.”