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HARSH PUNISHMENT: This could happen to Martin County students caught using phones in class

Martin County School District wants to update Student Code of Conduct with strict consequences for cellphone use
File photo of a Martin County student with a cell phone on her desk.jpg
Posted at 3:33 PM, Jul 08, 2024

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — Cellphones must be turned off and put away during class time in the state of Florida.

Now, the Martin County School District is looking for harsher punishments for students who violate that law.

Cellphones in school may not be an issue unique to Martin County, but district leaders have had enough. They said phones and other wireless devices can not only be a major distraction but can also contribute to cyberbullying and other school-related issues.

"This board has been committed to protecting the learning environment for all students for quite some time and this is really another step in that process," Derek Lowe, the coordinator of public information and community relations for the Martin County School District, said.

Derek Lowe with the Martin County School District speaks to WPTV education reporter Stephanie Susskind about the challenges educators face with the use of cellphones.
Derek Lowe with the Martin County School District speaks to WPTV education reporter Stephanie Susskind about the challenges educators face with the use of cellphones.

WPTV education reporter Stephanie Susskind asked Lowe how much of a problem cellphones have been in the classroom.

"They’re a problem, and I don't think that’s unique to us in Martin County," he replied. "I think a lot of people when they hear cellphones in class they think it's just a distraction problem in the learning environment, and it is, but we're also seeing cellphones are a big problem when it comes to bullying, cyberbullying, kids posting pictures of other students, that are just not acceptable here in Martin County."

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According to school district documents, Martin County middle and high school students would have their phones confiscated if they're caught using them during instruction time.

Parents would then have to pick up the phone at the end of the school day.

One idea from a focus group on the topic would confiscate the phone for the rest of the semester for a third offense.

"Repeated offenses will result in progressive discipline and higher level of consequences," the documents state.

Austin Lott, a Martin County High School graduate, shared his thoughts on potentially harsher penalties for students using cellphones in the classroom.
Austin Lott, a Martin County High School graduate, shared his thoughts on potentially harsher penalties for students using cellphones in the classroom.

"I understand where they are coming from because phones are a distraction in school," Austin Lott, a Martin County High School graduate, said. "But I think that's over the top."

The Martin County School Board will meet Tuesday evening to discuss how they will tackle technology violations and could vote to implement code of conduct changes.

The district expects its board attorney to weigh in on cellphone punishment changes during Tuesday's meeting. That meeting will begin at the conclusion of a workshop that starts at 4 p.m.

John Steckstor is a school principal in New York who is currently visiting Stuart. Susskind asked him Monday about the cellphone issue while he was exploring downtown Stuart with his family.

"They're a beast," he replied. "Most problems came from the cellphones — whether they are academic, loss of focus, to drama, to safety issues. It was a really big problem. I've seen a lot of different approaches."

He calls cellphones one of the biggest challenges facing education today, with no easy answer.

"It's part of the fabric of our life right now, and I'll be interested to see how it impacts education moving forward," Steckstor said.