BELPRE - A change in Belpre High School policies has some parents and students up-in-arms as school officials work to create a better environment for all involved.
Many parents and students have made comments on Facebook against the changes that include a change in cell phone policy and revamping of the student dress code.
"No parents or students have contacted me regarding these changes," said Belpre High School Principal Dennis Eichinger. "A lot of the time there is an uproar on social networking sites, but no one talks to me about the issues."
During the Aug. 3 and Aug. 4 weekend, Eichinger sent two missives to parents of his students, which includes grades seven through 12. The first announcement included changes to the dress code to lengthen shorts and skirts with guidelines for more appropriate shirts.
The second announcement was the elimination of cell phone usage.
"While no one has come to me about their concerns, I believe the cell phone issue is likely the one getting the most attention from parents and students," Eichinger said.
The new policy does not allow for cell phone usage during school hours.
"Last year I spent about 60 percent of my time dealing with issues that came about after kids posted information or comments online during school hours," Eichinger said. "We want to eliminate distractions and issues, particularly those we have to address time after time."
Teachers and school administrators across the country have mentioned the problems technology can and does bring into classrooms as they have been known to spend more time reprimanding students for cell phone usage than teaching, Eichinger said.
"Cell phones do lend themselves to problems at school," said Belpre City Schools District Superintendent Tony Dunn. "We also realize kids are coming to school with cell phones provided by their parents and it lends itself to some real sticky situations."
Eichinger said this policy actually began in the last nine weeks of the previous school year but will be fully enforced when classes begin Aug. 22.
Dunn said the school board has an overall policy for cell phone usage, but individual schools are able to make their own decisions regarding technology.
"While there is a board policy that allows for carrying cell phones on school property, we also expect our principals to address problems they have in a manner they think is best for their students and situations," Dunn said. "Principals need to control their environment and they can do what they need to keep things at their schools in check."
Eichinger said the elimination of cell phone usage during the school day is likely not permanent as students will eventually go through professional development to learn how to use cell phones in a school environment.
"Cell phones are just a distraction and we at the school feel it needs to be eliminated until the students learn how to use them properly," Eichinger said.
Dunn said the district is not telling students they cannot have their cell phones, just that those devices cannot be used while school is in session.
"Our society has created this need for constant contact and that is not necessarily needed during the school day," Dunn said. "When students are in school, they are meant to be learning and not playing on a cell phone."
The change in cell phone policy is not the only differences for the new school year with the enforcement of a length requirement for shorts and skirts. The inseam for shorts must be at least five inches and no shorter with a similar requirement for skirts.
Shirts for girls may not allow cleavage to be exposed or bra straps, so all shirts must have a higher neckline and capped sleeves.
"The premise of the whole thing is that like many school districts, we spend a lot of time dealing with distractions that hamper learning and we are trying to address those issues," Eichinger said.
For concerned parents, Eichinger said if a student needs to be reached for some reason, the parents are more than welcome to call the school and get a message to their child.
"We are not going to shut people off from their kids," Eichinger said. "It is just that kids are addicted to cell phones and we need to keep things under control and create an environment more conducive to learning, which we need.
"I have to make decisions to help the kids graduate and until all of the kids in this school graduate, I will continue to make changes to help that happen," Eichinger said.