Community feedback contributed to the revisions to Carroll County Public Schools policy on when students can use cellphones and other devices in school, according to the school board.

The policy was revised to reduce the distractions caused by cellphones at inappropriate times during the school day.

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In April, the school system put out some proposed changes to the “Bring Your Own Device” section of its Portable Electronic Devices policy.

According to a memo from the Board of Education’s June meeting, CCPS approved further changes after considering strong engagement from the community.

The policy is broken up by elementary, middle and high school, and CCPS staff said in discussions that they wanted to leave room for administrators to make some decisions on a school-by-school basis.

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In the editing process since April, the elementary school policy added stronger wording to state that “it is highly recommended that students at this grade level not bring devices to the school bus or the classroom.”

In the initial changes, the middle school policy was the same as the one for high-schoolers. But after hearing community feedback, the two school levels are now differentiated.

Under the revised policy, middle-schoolers will not be permitted to use devices in hallways during class changes.

When Steve Johnson — the assistant superintendent of instruction who is retiring July 1 — presented the policy to the school board in April, staff made it clear that they wanted to move away from the “bring your own” attitude of the policy, at least during class time. When devices are part of learning, for “collaboration, communication and research,” CCPS has made it clear that it will provide devices for students, removing the onus from families to do so.

Whether a student has a cellphone for personal and family uses is a decision that should be up to the family, Johnson made clear in the presentation.

Carey Gaddis, spokesperson for CCPS, said the system does not anticipate having to purchase any additional devices. Before a teacher plans a lesson making use of devices, she said, the teacher would make sure every student would have one.

The revisions to the policy dictate when personal devices may be used, and the freedoms and responsibilities for students increase with each school level from elementary to high.

If they have one, elementary students will be asked to silence cellphones and keep them out of sight from the time they enter the building until the time they leave.

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In high schools, students will be asked to store and silence phones in classrooms, the media center, gymnasium, bathrooms and locker rooms. Teachers would have discretion to allow cellphones in class for instructional purposes. Students could use their devices during lunch, in the hallways, and before and after school hours unless told otherwise by an administrator.

For middle school students, the regulations are similar, except for use in hallways between classes.

The use of cellphones on buses remains up to the discretion of the bus driver in the proposal, as it is in the existing policy.

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Other parts of the policy for all students remain the same, such as the section that prohibits use of devices to “record, store, or transmit any type of image, sound, or video, except for approved projects with the permission of school staff.”

Student data policy

The school system is also seeking feedback for revisions to the Student Data Privacy Policy, which defines how it protects “personally identifiable student information while using digital tools for informational purposes.”

The policy’s definitions and guidelines are reviewed annually. The full text of the policy is available on the carrollk12.org website.

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