Cellphone policies vary among high schools | SteamboatToday.com

Cellphone policies vary among high schools

— They are powerful tools, and policies related to cellphone use vary throughout Routt County’s high schools.

Earlier this month, a tip to a state student safety hotline prompted an investigation into sexting at Canon City High School. The investigation revealed that hundreds of explicit photos of students had been exchanged among an unspecified number of students using smartphones.

Students were suspended, and the school’s high school football game was canceled, because players were involved. Students could also face criminal charges that carry the possibility of having to register as a sex offender.

Principals at Routt County’s three main high schools said they were unaware of anything similar having occurred at their schools.

Hayden Police Chief Greg Tuliszewski said he made sure officers were aware of the issues surrounding sexting in case someone reports it.

“Usually we need a victim or a parent, and most times it’s a parent,” he said.

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School officials are being proactive, and they work to educate students about the consequences of sharing certain information digitally.

“I think they do get it, but we see adults making the same mistakes,” Steamboat Springs High School principal Kevin Taulman said.

Taulman said teachers have a lot of conversations with students about what is appropriate to share.

“Colleges are going to look at your Facebook page, your Twitter, your Instagram,” Taulman said.

Smartphones can quickly tap into the social media applications, and at the Steamboat high school, Taulman said policy states students are not allowed to use social media during school hours.

Cellphones allow parents to easily contact their children, and the communications can be paramount in a crisis situation, but school officials are constantly dealing with the devices being a distraction.

At Hayden High School, students can have a cellphone at school, but it can only be on during the lunch hour.

“It’s one of the hardest things to control right now,” principal Gina Zabel said. “They’re masters at texting without taking it out of their pocket. It’s extremely difficulty to manage.”

She said the educational aspects of smartphones are not needed because they provide students with laptops or tablets. For next school year, teachers are considering not allowing cellphones at the school at all.

At Soroco High School, principal Lynda McCarty said inappropriate cellphone use has not been an issue during her first year as principal. Teachers have their own rules for cell phone use.

“It’s part of our world these days that students have cellphones,” McCarty said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland