Hattiesburg schools change phones policy

Published 3:48 pm Tuesday, September 13, 2011

So many students were violating the Hattiesburg Public School District’s policy against carrying cellphones during school hours that the district has decided it’s OK to bring cellphones to school — just not to use them during class.

Superintendent James Bacchus said he proposed the policy, and the school board approved the change.

“A lot of our suspension data was around cellphones,” he said. “The possession of a cellphone was causing the problem, so it just didn’t make sense to continue that practice.”

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Students cannot answer or talk on the phones during class, and the phones need to be set on silent or vibrate, District spokesman Jas N Smith said.

Superintendent Ben Burnett said the Lamar County School District changed its policy as of the 2010-11 school year.  Students can have cell phones on campus, but they must be turned off, he said.

Burnett said there are some worries about letting students carry cellphones.

“Students can use them for giving or receiving answers to tests,” he said. “A lot of bullying goes on by Facebook. But to say that they can’t walk on campus with one in their possession is not enforceable.”

Principal Robert Sanders said there’s been little misuse at Hattiesburg High School.

“Now that kids can have it, and it’s not taboo, we have not seen the misuse in a massive way. It’s becoming a non-issue,” he said.