VIERA, Fla. – Brevard County school leaders are promising a new crackdown on cellphones in the classroom as the district continues to work on a new disciplinary policy.
Brevard Public Schools Chairman Matt Susin announced the new policy Tuesday during a news conference with the new interim superintendent and representatives from the teachers union and the union representing school bus drivers and school staff.
The chairman said while students are allowed to have their cellphones when it’s appropriate, but if they are asked to put them away they need to do so, and if they refuse there will be steps to deal with that.
Susin said there were instances where students were watching the World Cup on their phones in class and refused to put the phone away.
“As soon as we said that the cellphone policy was going to come out, I had parents freaking out that, ‘Hey, Johnny needs to have their cell phone in case there’s an emergency,’” Susin said. “Absolutely. But you need to be able to have it in the bag. And if we get to a point where the parents are telling their kids it’s not appropriate for the teacher to tell you you can’t have your cellphone, we have an issue.”
Susin also said there would be a zero-tolerance policy on violence against teachers and staff as well, saying that depending on the situation, they could be going to expulsion. He also said there would be more opportunity for more site-based management of discipline, and principals would have the opportunity to suspend students for up to five days.
A disciplinary committee will meet in early January to discuss more policy changes.
In recent weeks, the school board has been meeting with the unions, parents and other officials to discuss a discipline crackdown.
The district says dozens of teachers and bus drivers have quit because of student behavior, including physical attacks.
While many agree there needs to be a new disciplinary policy, some parents worry that a stricter policy will provide unequal treatment for children with special needs.
However, Susin said the push toward cracking down on discipline has convinced more teachers to stay.
“We had teachers that were ready to leave in December. They were going to leave our school district and we made a decision to make it like we said make it an issue but talk about it and come up with solutions,” Susin said. “The last piece, I was at church on Sunday, I had two former teachers come up and say they’re going to be applying at the beginning of next year so that they can become a part of our public schools because they left for discipline. This has been a positive thing across the board for retention and recruitment.”
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