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School Committee OKs Phone Use Penalties, Hostile Work Environment Investigation Report

[CREDIT: File Photo] Warwick Veterans Jr. High School at 2401 W Shore Road.

[CREDIT: File Photo] Warwick Veterans Jr. High School at 2401 W Shore Road.
[CREDIT: File Photo] Warwick Veterans Jr. High School at 2401 W Shore Road.
WARWICK, RI – The Warwick School Committee met Thursday, approving student penalties for failing to keep phones turned off and out of sight, agreeing to separately schedule professional development and orientation, and authorizing a report on a hostile work environment investigation. 

Closed session, hostile work environment investigation report

The committee instructed the district’s legal representatives to prepare a report on final actions taken regarding the preliminary investigation. No details were revealed but the meeting’s agenda’s section on the board’s routine start-of-meeting closed session indicated  it involved a hostile work environment claim. School Committee Chair Karen Bachus recused herself from the discussion.

Separate days for professional development, orientation

The committee also approved a memorandum of agreement with the Warwick Teacher’s Union stating professional development will not be held on orientation day.

Last week, the committee voted to make the district staff development day voluntary after receiving complaints from teachers about a lack of access to their classrooms in the weeks prior to the first day of the new school year.

Teachers said they needed time to prep lesson plans and other activities for their students. 

Bachus said the district “didn’t have a great turnout” for professional development on Wednesday. 

Superintendent Phil Thornton noted the figure for teacher attendance was only 25 percent.

Cell phone policy restricts students’ device use during class

The committee adopted a new cell phone use policy for students during the meeting, setting penalties for students who do not keep their devices turned off and out of sight during the school day.

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“Our kids are not learning as much as they can if they’re on their phones,” said committee chairperson Karen Bachus.

Member David Testa noted the policy “should dramatically reduce distractions.”

The policy reads, in part:

At the middle school level*:

It is the expectation that all student cell phones and electronic devices will be turned off and kept out of sight during the school day. In the event of a student violating the cell phone policy, the following steps toward progressive discipline will be implemented:

1st Offense – Verbal warning

2nd Offense – Phone is confiscated by an administrator, kept in a locked location, returned to the student at the end of the day

3rd Offense & Beyond – Phone is confiscated by an administrator and returned subsequent to a parent meeting

*Note: Repeat offenders may require safety plans designed by a school administrator especially for the student to eliminate the potential for disruption of the school day. Repeated violations of the cell

phone policy are not conducive to learning, can create unsafe learning environments and can substantially impede the ability of students to learn. Therefore out of school suspensions are an option in certain circumstances.

At the high school level*

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– Cell phone use by students during the school day will be limited to the cafeteria during the lunch period or only with specific permission from a teacher or administrator. In the event of a student violating the cell phone policy, the following steps toward progressive discipline will

be implemented:

1st Offense – Verbal warning

2nd Offense – Phone is confiscated by an administrator, kept in a locked location, returned to the student at the end of the day

3rd Offense & Beyond – Phone is confiscated by an administrator and returned subsequent to a parent meeting.

Refusal to surrender a phone to an administrator is tantamount to direct insubordination and may result in discipline penalties up to and including suspension from school. Repeated violations of the cell phone policy are not conducive to learning, can create unsafe learning environments and can substantially impede the ability of students to learn. Therefore out of school suspensions are an option in certain circumstances.

Author: Joe Siegel

Joe Siegel is a regular contributing writer for WarwickPost.com.IF YOU CAN'T READ THIS ARTICLE, AND YOU'D LIKE TO, YOU'LL NEED TO SUBSCRIBE (TOP RIGHT MENU) FOR $1.50 PER MONTH OR $15 YEARLY, OR LOG IN.