IONIA — Ionia High School students will not be allowed to bring their cell phones into classrooms this fall, one of five changes made to the student handbook.
During Monday’s Ionia Public Schools Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Ben Gurk said the changes to student cell phone use during school hours will “better align” the high school and middle school electronic device policies. He said the policy changes were scheduled to happen a year ago, but they were put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We believe cell phones in classrooms are an unnecessary distraction. This is backed up by many studies, including those conducted by the University of Chicago, Rutgers University and the Journal of Educational Psychology,” Gurk told the Daily News. “Also, our high school now has a 1:1 Chromebook ratio; thus, when technology is needed, students do have access.”
The policy requires that students keep cell phones in their lockers during class periods. However, cell phones may be used during lunches.
Per the policy, teachers will confiscate any phones they see in the classroom and bring them to the office for parent pick-up for the first offense. If a student continues to violate the policy, they will be issued after-school or in-school consequences such as lunch detentions or in-school suspensions, Gurk said.
Another change to the high school student handbook was the removal of the grade reduction chart, which has been under discussion “for years” by high school administrators and department chairs who have wanted to delete it, Gurk told the school board.
“Based on poor student attendance, students’ grades could be reduced. We didn’t think that was helping students to want to be in the high school,” he said. “Obviously there is already a natural correlation with poor attendance and academic achievement, so we removed that grade reduction chart.”
A third change to the student handbook is a requirement that any independent study course must be a course that exists in the high school’s Course Description Guide.
“That’s something we’ve been doing, but we just wanted to memorialize it in our handbook,” Gurk noted.
A fourth change to the high school handbook forbids CBD oil or CBD-related products at school. Gurk told the Daily News these items already were not permitted, but “we wanted to memorialize this in our handbook as well.”
Finally, a pre-COVID policy that requires that bags be left in students’ lockers and not brought into their classrooms will recommence and also noted in the handbook.
Middle school handbook changes
The Ionia Middle School student handbook also has some revisions that update procedures regarding emergencies such as fires and severe weather, including tornado watches and warnings.
Additional changes outlined procedures related to the search of students, lockers and desks, and seizure of “any illegal, unauthorized, or contraband materials discovered in the search; and personal materials confiscated for inappropriate use in school.
“These procedures were already in place at the high school. They were practiced,” Gurk explained to board members. “But we wanted to memorialize them into the (middle school) handbook.”
Another change to the handbook added the word “CBD” to a list including tobacco, nicotine, and paraphernalia that are not allowed at school, using “very similar wording” regarding CBD in both the middle and high school handbooks, Gurk noted.
Board member Ken Baker, who is the director of Soaring Above Teen Center in Ionia serving at-risk youth, told Gurk the center has had issues with parents who claim their child has a prescription for CBD. Baker asked how that would be handled at school given the policy that does not permit CBD.
“The building principal and nurse would review it, and possibly be in correspondence with the health care professional who wrote it,” Gurk replied. “I haven’t seen any of those. I don’t know if the middle school has.”