Hillsborough school board considering new cellphone policy for students

Hillsborough County School Board members are expected to discuss several updates to the district’s cellphone and wireless device policy Tuesday afternoon.

In March, several board members expressed concerns over ongoing behavioral and learning problems related to cellphone use in school.

"Would academic performance increase when cell phones are removed in schools? Absolutely. I have the data that supports that," said Hillsborough County School Board member Lynn Gray. "Will their mental disposition, anxiety, depression be mitigated? Absolutely. The data is overwhelming."

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The policy update now being considered would impose more uniform restrictions across the district.

Using a cellphone, or any connected device, during the school day would not be allowed unless expressly approved by a teacher or staff member.

While kids would still be able to bring their devices to school, they would have to remain in silent mode and kept out of sight during the instructional day.

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High schoolers would also be allowed to use their devices at lunch, provided their school allows it.

The proposed Wireless Communication and Other Electronic Devices updated policy would serve as a baseline for the district, with the ability for individual principals to impose even more restrictive policies.

The new rules also aim to combat bullying and privacy issues.

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The policy expressly prohibits anyone from taking unauthorized photos or videos of other students or school personnel and posting them to social media or from using a camera-enabled device in a bathroom or locker room.

Using a cell phone in any way to threaten, humiliate, or harass is a violation.

The policy also specifies that cheating, sexting, or sharing any explicit material are violations of the student code of conduct and could result in criminal charges if laws are broken.

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Any violation of the updated policy could lead to a device being confiscated.

Hillsborough Board members are expected to formally vote on the proposed update next month.