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Lafayette Parish Schools to Test New Cellphone Use Policy

To combat problems with students using cell phones to record fights, photograph tests and take invasive pictures, a Louisiana school district will forbid rule-breakers from bringing phones to school for 90 days.

Shutterstock/Maria Savenko
(TNS) — A new rule regarding cell phone usage in Lafayette Parish schools is getting explained further by members of the school board.

The new rule adds improper use of electronic telecommunication devices to the level 3 elementary and level 2 middle/high school Consequences of Behavior Policy in the 2022-23 student/parent handbook. Tehmi Chassion, of District 4, and Britt Latiolais, of District 5, said the addition was needed to help in the continuous effort to thwart bullying and disruption of school.

"What we are experiencing of late is an onslaught of kids feeding into trends," Chassion said. "Most of the problems that we have are because of cell phone usage. We're just trying to add an extra layer of protection."

Code 52 is defined as the improper use of any type of electronic telecommunication device on or off campus in a manner that causes a substantial disruption to any LPSS facility or campus. Improper use includes recording arguments, fights, unauthorized recordings of individuals, making threats or terrorizing statements orally, visually or written including via electronic mail, letters, notes, social media posts, text messages and/or blogs.

"Students are taking pictures of other students in the bathroom and airdropping it to the entire school or posting it on social media," Chassion said. "Students are recording fights and arguments, but they aren't turning it in. They are sharing it on social media."

Students who violate the rule will not be allowed to bring any type of electronic device on campus or to any school-sponsored activity or event for a minimum of 90 academic school days. If there are less than 90 days remaining in the academic school year, the consequence carries over to the following year. If a student is graduating, the consequence could result in that student being denied participation of the commencement ceremony by Superintendent Irma Trosclair. In addition, violation of the consequence will result in a student being recommended for expulsion or change of placement.

"Students are using their phones for evil," Chassion said. "Taking pictures of students using the restroom, recording students pants being pulled down and sharing it on social media, and taking pictures of tests and sharing it."

Chassion and Latiolais were 2 of 7 board members to vote in favor of the rule, while Elroy Broussard, of District 3, and Donald Aguillard, of District 9, were the only board members to vote against it.

"I've got a hard time wrapping my arms around that (code 52) when we tell people if you see something, say something," Broussard said at the Nov. 9 board meeting. "... One of the biggest problems we've got in our system is discipline. If we are videoing or telegraphing something that is illegal, immoral or whatever, we should know it. ... If we know something wrong is going on and we got video that it is, it is a feather in our cap. I don't think the 90-day suspension is going to stop anything.

"... So, having said that I cannot support this because it does not do what I consider the intent of school or school property, teacher or student safety," Broussard said.

Latiolais said he voted in favor of code 52 in support of staff and law enforcement.

"Staff and law enforcement supported it," Latiolais said. "We have got to put these cell phones down in schools. We have to take staff's recommendation on these things. The staff felt it was important."

Chassion believes the punishment of no phone could have more impact on today's students than in year's past.

"When I was in school, it used to be 'please don't call my mom,'" Chassion said. "But taking a kids phone away, that seems to make kids more distraught."

©2022 The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.