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— There’s a new cell-phone plan at Bentonville High School - unlimited texting, calling and data for students, but only between classes or at lunch.

An experimental policy that started May 23 allowed for the change, Principal Kim Garrett said.

Students had to turn off their cell phones and keep them out of sight after the first bell rang under an old plan. Students seen using cell phones would receive detention, and the phones would be confiscated until a parent picked them up.

“I think we live in a new time,” Garrett said. “Can we take a step forward? Can students also take a step forward so it is better for all of us?”

Garrett estimates nearly 3,400 of the 3,600 students at the high school have cell phones.

Steve Vera, school resource officer, said 144 students had their phones confiscated in the past month. More than 20 phones were taken away the week before the policy went into effect. Parents contacting their children made up a big portion of offenses, Vera said.

Junior Te’Leisha Julian said many students used cell phones despite the old policy.

“I was one of them,” Julian said. She said the new policy gives students more freedom.

“That way we don’t have to check messages behind our teacher’s back,” Julian said.

Administrators will track tardies and cell-phone offenses, Garrett said. She said if students continue to get to class on time and cell phones are used less in class, the experimental policy could become permanent.

Julian said she is afraid the policy won’t last because many students are still breaking the rules. Students still have to turn off their cell phones and keep them out of sight when in class.

Eleven cell-phone offenses were documented four days after the new experimental policy started, Vera said.

Garrett said students need to learn proper cell-phone etiquette when at school.

“I think our community is so attached to our cell phones we have gotten into this mindset of having our cell phones handy so we can communicate,” Garrett said. “Unfortunately, that is not a good learning environment.We have to teach our students on how to be fully present when they need to be fully present.”

Garrett said high school administrators and faculty members plan to discuss the policy at a staff retreat June 17.

Arkansas, Pages 13 on 05/30/2011

Print Headline: High school tries out new cell-phone policy

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