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Cell phones in school must be off - always

Jesse Royer, 12, of DeKalb uses a friend’s cell phone to make a call in the cafeteria DeKalb High School on Wednesday evening. Jesse, a seventh-grader at Clinton Rosette Middle School, was at the high school for a basketball game. Many area school policies prohibit the use of cell phones and electronic devices during school hours.
Chronicle photo HOLLY LUNDH
Jesse Royer, 12, of DeKalb uses a friend’s cell phone to make a call in the cafeteria DeKalb High School on Wednesday evening. Jesse, a seventh-grader at Clinton Rosette Middle School, was at the high school for a basketball game. Many area school policies prohibit the use of cell phones and electronic devices during school hours. Chronicle photo HOLLY LUNDH

Ringing cell phones can become a nuisance when they interrupt any situation, but school officials are doing what they can to make sure it doesn't become a problem at school. During the school day at Sycamore Middle School students must keep their phones in their lockers. &#8220(The reason) is just to limit their use so they don't interrupt their education,” principal Jane Dargatz said. &#8220Plus, it's a gadget, and they'll be playing with it. They'll find some way to distract themselves from learning.” Students are allowed to use their cell phones before and after school near the front lobby. Phones are then used to call for rides, Dargatz said. At Genoa-Kingston High School, students are told at the beginning of the school year that phones should not be out. &#8220We don't even want them visible,” principal Don Billington said. &#8220So we don't want to see them hanging off (students') belts or anything.” He said administrators understand parents want their children to have cell phones, but during school they must be put away. DeKalb School Superintendent Paul Beilfuss said students can carry their cell phones, but they must be off. He said there hasn't been much of a problem with cell phone use abuse, but policies must be made just in case. Students are always becoming more technologically savvy and could be using text messages to cheat on tests. &#8220It's hard to keep ahead of the technology,” he said. Billington said text-messaging is also a reason to keep phones off at school. All administrators said if a student must use a phone during school hours they should ask permission to use the school phone. DeKalb High School Principal Lindsey Hall said cell phone rules always apply during school hours - even during emergencies. Phones should still be turned off and put away, she said. She said the policy wasn't being overlooked during a Dec. 16 incident that sent two students to the hospital and left four arrested. It was the morning before winter break and at some point a pair of girls allegedly set a plastic chair on fire near the band room. Students were evacuated from the building and later led to the DeKalb Park District Sports & Recreation Center, which is next door. It was all over by 11:45 a.m., when students were sent home for the rest of the day about three hours before the regular dismissal time. But during that time students were using their cell phones to call their parents, which is a violation of school policy. Even though the students were not in the school building they still shouldn't have been using their cell phones, Hall said. She also said there was some inappropriate cell phone use and said some students called other students who had been suspended from school to tell them to come to the school. Hall said the rule isn't being enforced just for enforcement's sake. &#8220What cell phone use does is interfere with essential communication with safety personnel,” Hall said at a recent school board meetings. She was repeating what she had already written in a letter sent home to parents on Jan. 3. &#8220... Please know that the use of cell phones during an emergency situation can interfere with the necessary communications that must take place during these times. This happened during the tragic events at Columbine High School in 1999,” she wrote in the letter. She said parents all can't all be in called in case of an emergency situation, but they will do the best they can to have them notified through the school's Web site and the media. School board member Holly Wallace said she listened to reports about the fight on the local radio station. She said she was comfortable hearing what was being reported. &#8220Everything was OK,” she said &#8220That's all I need to know.” Staff Writer Aracely Hernandez contributed to this report. Dana Herra can be reached at dherra@daily-chronicle.com Aracely Hernandez can be reached at ahernandez@daily-chronicle.com

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