Walker High announces pilot program to allow cell phones on campus; area restrictions apply


FILE – In this Aug. 11, 2019, file photo, a man uses a cell phone in New Orleans. Major phone companies are telling the country’s state attorneys general that they will do more against robocalls. It’s the latest step from government and industry to combat the growing problem. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

Walker High School students received an extra present over the holiday.

This one was from their school administration.

In a video released on Facebook during the Christmas and New Year break, principal Jason St. Pierre discussed the new, “pilot” program at Walker High to allow cell phones on campus.

“We want our teachers to be true facilitators in the classroom,” St. Pierre said.

St. Pierre said the new policy would allow students to analyze issues and answer questions in real time in the classroom.

However, the video also produced a short clip on being a “good digital citizen” which requires critical thinking, as well as a keen eye on what’s ‘real’ and what’s ‘fake’ online.

It also stresses to be nice to others, especially on social media.

The video went on to say that there are areas that will allow no phone usage, some phone usage, and open phone usage that correspond with the red, yellow, and green of a traffic light.

Red zones include:

  • Driving on campus
  • Office areas
  • The cafeteria
  • Restrooms

Yellow zones (require permission) include:

  • Classrooms, based on teacher permission for a lesson

Green zones (free use) include:

  • Anywhere before school, that isn’t a red area
  • In-between classes, in areas that are not red areas

Restrictions on phone usage in green zones include active video recording, audio recording, and taking unauthorized pictures.

St. Pierre added that if a child doesn’t have a cell phone, Walker High provides laptops which can be checked out for student use.

The program announcement comes on the heels of a new cell phone policy adopted by the school board on Nov. 22, 2019.

The new policy, one of eight policy changes board members voted “yes” for, will allow students to possess cell phones on campus, though they must be turned “off” while on campus unless authorized by the principal and allowed by a teacher.

The current policy had not been updated since 2006 but will now face overhaul in 2019 after the school board adopted Policy JCDAE, which states:

“No student, unless authorized by the school principal or his/her designee, shall use (must be in the off position), make visible, or operate any personal electronic device including any device in a student’s possession that electronically communicates, sends, receives, stores, reproduces or displays voice and/or text communication or data on any elementary, middle, or secondary school grounds or any bus while being transported to and from school or any school functions.

“The devices shall include, but are not limited to, cellular phones, smart phones, e-Readers, iPods, SPY Pens, Pocket Audio Key Chains, audio flash drives, smart watches, cameras, video recorders and personal GPS tracking devices with audio features.

“Neither the Livingston Parish School Board nor any individual schools under the jurisdiction of the School Board shall be held responsible for lost, stolen, confiscated, or damaged electronic devices.”

Assistant Superintendent Stephen Parrill, who introduced and explained the policy to the Curriculum/Policy Committee during its meeting on Tuesday, said that around 15 schools will pilot the new policy during the 2020 spring semester.

Those schools will report back if they believe the policy needs to be changed before it is fully implemented across the district in start the 2020-21 school year.

“Our policy as it stands now is not enforceable and realistic,” Parrill said. “We’re pretty pleased this will be a happy medium.”

According to Policy JCDAE, personal electronic devices will not be allowed on campus during regular school hours for students through fifth grade.

For students in 6th grade and up, electronic devices will be permitted but must be turned “off” and “not left on vibrate.”

However, if an elementary campus goes through sixth grade, the elementary rules apply to the sixth-graders.

And if fifth grade is located on a junior high campus, the junior high rules apply to the fifth-graders.

Unless authorized, any personal electronic devices in use or operation during the regular school day will be confiscated and have to be retrieved by parents or legal guardians, the policy states.

The new policy allows teachers to regulate the use of personal electronic devices in the classroom ad for “specific educational purposes,” if authorized by the principal.

But under the new policy, students cannot use devices to record, transmit, or post pictures, sound, or video of a people on campus during school activities and/or hours at any time, unless directed by a teacher for educational purposes that have been approved by the principal.

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