New cellphone policy proposed in Princeville

For The Weekly Post

PRINCEVILLE – Some educators and students have called for a new Princeville School District student cellphone policy.

The policy proposed during a school-board meeting March 14 allows high school students to check cellphone messages in hallways during passing periods. Currently, students are prohibited from carrying cellphones during school hours. They must be off and stored in lockers or vehicles.

“That wasn’t happening, and quite honestly, it wasn’t going to be feasible if we continued down that path,” Junior-Senior High School Principal Rich Thole said.

A committee of 20 students and seven staff members formed in mid-January and developed the proposed policy, according to Kelly Jenkins, the district technology coordinator. A board vote is expected in April.

“We did see our current policy was a little outdated and probably pretty hard to enforce,” Jenkins said.

Committee member Brianna Brodie, a high school junior, said students believed the top priority regarding a new policy should be safety and communication with parents. Under the current policy, students are to use school phones in emergencies and parents are to call the school office.

The proposed policy mandates students store silenced phones where teachers or other students can’t see them. If a phone rings or vibrates, is visible during class time or is being used during class time, staff will be allowed to confiscate it. Students on the committee were OK with that, per Jenkins.

“We were very happy with the students that were definitely seeing things from the teachers’ perspectives, too,” she said. “They also said classroom integrity was important to them.”

Cellphone use also would be prohibited in restrooms and physical-education areas. Jenkins suggested the proposed policy was not related to Princeville junior Noah Guzman’s recent claim that two students took and/or shared cellphone photos of him partially unclad in a school restroom.

“I think there’s always been a conversation about having an updated cellphone policy,” Jenkins said. “That’s been a big thing for the students. That’s been on the table for quite some time.”

Guzman has sought legal redress regarding the bathroom incident, alleged to have taken place in December. A civil trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday in Peoria County Circuit Court.

The proposed policy prohibits cellphone photography or video recording on school grounds. Board President Darwin Stahl suggested that be modified to allow photos or video at Princeville athletic and agricultural events.

“We’ll try to figure out a way to accomplish that and maintain the integrity of the purpose behind it,” Thole said.

According to figures Superintendent Shannon Duling provided, there have been 25 high school cellphone-policy violations this academic year.

Duling announced Junior-Senior High School Assistant Principal Kyle Dennison is resigning. He is to become principal at Wethersfield Elementary School in Kewanee. Also resigning are kindergarten teacher Kacey Bohanan, junior-high science teacher Clark Brown and high school assistant softball coach Alyssa Brabant.
Regarding action items, the board authorized a $29,569.60 contract with Heart Technologies Inc. of East Peoria to provide a new door-access system. The current system has out-of-date software, according to Duling.

“If we ever have an issue and the system goes down, we won’t be able to fix it,” he said. “That means none of our doors will open. So it’s a nightmare.”

Among other things, the board:
•Approved spending $37,633 for a new van from Bob Lindsay Honda of Peoria, contingent upon Head Start funding the purchase.
• Approved an agreement with Jostens Inc. to provide yearbook and school photographs for 2023-24. Unlike the current vendor, Jostens offers online ordering, according to Jenkins.
• Renewed a deal for $3,083 per month with Digital Copy Systems of Peoria to provide copiers.
• Authorized hiring high school students Ted Fritzenmeier, Neleh Geiger and Aiden Huss and staffers Jeremy Melick, Elizabeth Snyder and Leamond Taylor for technology summer employment.
• Approved Daniel Murk and Mikey Sheets as volunteer baseball coaches and Dan Stone as volunteer softball coach.