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SCC deals with cell phones in schools

In the past month, the Twin Cities media has reported students spreading nude pictures through text messages and taping fights with cell phones to post on YouTube. One female student was even charged with disorderly conduct after she continued to text message in class after she was told to stop.

Cell phones in schools are just another area where St. Croix Central differs from the Twin Cities. No dangerous activity involving the devices has been reported at any of the three schools.

Administration hopes to stop any potential problems through strict policies.

Cell phones haven't been a problem at St. Croix Central Elementary, reported Principal Steve Sanders.

Generally, Sanders said, kids tell him when they bring a cell phone to school, even though it's not required by a formal policy.

The kids don't usually play with them during school either, Sanders said.

Sanders said his sister is also an elementary principal in the Chicago area. She's never had a problem with the devices in her school either.

Once kids get to middle school, cell phones become more of an issue.

St. Croix Central Middle School Principal Scott Woodington is trying to minimize the problems the devices cause in the building.

"We have enough issues to deal with during the day without cell phones," Woodington said. "They're just another distraction."

A strict policy demands that camera phones be checked into the office at the start of school each day. Non-camera phones may be kept in students' lockers, but not be used, only after a parent signs a permission form.

Woodington said the exact number varies, but usually 15-20 camera phones are checked into the office each day. Probably three times that are stored in lockers, he added.

If a student is caught using a phone during school, it's confiscated and a parent must pick it up. The student also sits in lunch detention for two weeks. After a second offense, the phone is returned to a parent under the stipulation that if caught again, the phone won't be returned until the end of the school year.

"Thankfully I haven't confiscated any phones yet," Woodington said.

Even as more parents rely on cell phones to contact their children, the middle school policy dictates more old-fashioned communication.

"We would like all students to use school phones to communicate with parents during the school day," Woodington added.

As the years pass, Woodington said more kids have cell phones, resulting in more problems. The policies change slightly to deal with new issues.

That's why camera phones are kept away from the kids. So far, there haven't been any instances of inappropriate pictures or videos taken at the middle school.

"We're trying to be pro-active," Woodington said. "I'm also a realist and know some students are walking around with cell phones on them. We'll deal with issues if they come up."

The student handbook policy at SCC High School states that students can't use their cell phones during school hours, from 8:15 a.m.-3:15 p.m. Students are, however, allowed to keep their phones with them.

"Cell phones are the No. 1 discipline issue at the high school," said Principal Glenn Webb.

The first time a student is caught using a cell phone, Webb and the office staff will hold it for the day. To get the phone back, a parent or guardian must come to the school to get it. The confiscated phones need to be turned in daily to the office, he said.

A second offense means Webb holds the phone for the remainder of the school year.

"I've probably kept four or five phones in the past two years," Webb said. He doesn't pay the phone bill when he takes them either.

Reactions from parents vary, Webb said. The majority of parents are supportive of the policy though, Webb said. Woodington said he thinks the majority of parents support the middle school policy as well.

"The big issue is that students and parents rely on them so heavily," said Webb. "You have to balance between them being relied on and figuring out what's going to be safe."

The school district recently enacted a privacy policy which bans the use of cell phones in locker rooms. The potential for taking pictures or recording conversations is limited.

Text messaging in school is by far the biggest problem, Webb said. Rarely are students caught actually talking on their phones. Service throughout the building is spotty, but text messages are easier to send out than calls.

"It's a struggle," Webb said. "It's a technology that's out there. We embrace technology daily, but there are things we have to put limits on."