By APRIL GUILMET
Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- Just over a year after the school district issued a policy asking students to leave their cell phones at home, a large number of recent high school and middle school discipline incidents have, not surprisingly, concerned cell phone usage. During the Feb. 15 School Board meeting, school administrators shared highlights of documented disciplinary incidents at the middle school and high school so far this school year.
At Londonderry Middle School, there were a total of 303 incidents during the first semester, up from 193 last year. Thirty-eight of this year’s incidents were listed as “misuse of electronic devices,” while another 61 of the incidents stemmed from “disturbing school atmosphere.”
Still, the district’s policy of intolerance when it comes to cell phone usage seems to be resonating with students.
Middle School Assistant Principal Wendy Hastings noted that so far only two students have received a second warning for cell phone violations.
At Londonderry High School, there were a total of 592 disciplinary incidents this year, compared to last year’s 424. Among this year’s incidents, 131 were considered “misuse of electronic devices,” while 42 incidents stemmed from “disturbing school atmosphere.”
“Misuse of electronic devices” offenses weren’t logged during the previous school year, since until the start of 2010 such behavior wasn’t considered a disciplinary infraction.
“Our total incidents are up this year mostly because we instituted our cell phone policy. So we’re really only up 37 incidents from last semester,” said high school Assistant Principal Wendy Hastings.
Faced with a growing number of children sending text messages or checking their e-mails during class time, school administrators issued a new policy around this time last year, suggesting students leave their electronic gadgets at home or at least have the courtesy to shut them off once class begins.
In January 2010, Londonderry High School Principal Jason Parent sent letters home to parents, asked them to refrain from sending text messages or e-mails to their children during school hours.
The Londonderry High School student handbook states: “Musical devices are only to be used during a student’s lunch or study. They should not be used, or displayed in classrooms or other locations outside the café or study hall area.”Another section of the handbook notes “the use of cell phones and pagers is not permitted” and those students who use or display such items in the classroom are subject to “disciplinary action including, but not limited to, confiscation of the devices.” As it stands now, violating either policy leads to the confiscation of any offending devices.
Cell phones and electronic devices may not be used in any classrooms at Londonderry’s schools, including the Library Media Center, unless curriculum dictates. Students are permitted to use their devices, including iPods and other musical devices, on their own time, in the cafeteria and in the hallways.
However, Parent warned that if cell phone usage in the classroom continues to be a problem, it could eventually lead to a school-wide prohibition of all such electronic devices.