Use of Cellphones, Electronic Devices and Social Media Policy

FAIRMONT HIGH SCHOOL POLICY ON THE USE OF CELLULAR TELEPHONES, OTHER ELECTRONIC DEVICES AND SOCIAL MEDIA
(AT SCHOOL)

  1. PREAMBLE

Fairmont High School realises that part of the 21st century is adapting to the changing methods of communication.  The proliferation of the ownership and usage of the cellphones and other electronic devices, and the increasing sophistication of its derivatives in its various guises, makes it necessary for the usage of these devices to be ordered, controlled and monitored by, in and through school.  The purpose of this policy is to help preserve and foster a safe, non-disruptive educational environment for effective teaching and learning, to maintain and foster order and discipline, to deter learners from actions detrimental to themselves, their peers or the general value systems embraced by the school, and to achieve these objectives consistent with the law.

  1. LEGAL BASIS

The school has built its policy on the following premises:

2.1     Given the need for school safety and the protection and well-being of individual learners, the authority of the school to conduct searches is held to pre-empt an individual learner’s right to privacy.  Consequently, school officials are empowered to conduct searches of a pupil’s property when there is reasonable suspicion that s/he may be in violation of a school rule, a policy or the law.

2.2     All school-related property is subject to search at any time.  School-related property includes, but is not limited to, computers, cellphones and related or similar devices and items used during or in the support of education-related programmes or activities, and in respect of this policy is deemed to include also privately owned devices brought onto the school property or to any school, school sponsored or school related activity or function.

2.3     Before undertaking a search of any privately-owned device, however, the school official performing such search must have a reasonable suspicion that the learner has indulged in an action which violates the law, a school rule or policy.

2.4     ‘Reasonable suspicion’ may be created by first-hand eyewitness observations or reports, information from a normally reliable informant and suspicious behaviour.

  1. ACCEPTABLE USAGE

The following list, which is neither exhaustive nor exclusive, provides examples of practices which are deemed acceptable in terms of this policy:

3.1     The authorised and monitored use of handheld devices like cellphones, iPhones, BlackBerrys, iTouch and other electronic devices in order to enhance classroom learning with instructions from the teacher in the classroom.

3.2     Parental contact with children before and after school hours and during breaks.

3.3     Tracing of the whereabouts of family members and friends, lift-givers and the like during the allowed time slots when these handheld devices can be on.

3.4     The rescheduling of lifts or extracurricular activities – for example, in the light of changed weather conditions, unforeseen delays or earlier than expected ending of activities during the allowed time slots when these handheld devices can be on.

3.5     The enhancement of classroom notes, e.g. by means of recording a teacher’s lessons and snapping a picture of the board PROVIDED THIS IS AUTHORISED IN ADVANCE BY THE TEACHER.

3.6     The taking of pictures of own projects to show to parents, thus allowing them to be involved in group class activities.

3.7     Communication during an emergency situation, e.g. in order to reach the authorities or a medical provider.

  1. UNACCEPTABLE PRACTICES

The following list, which is neither exhaustive nor exclusive, provides examples of practices which are deemed unacceptable in terms of this policy:

4.1     Disrupting academic time: e.g. by allowing the ringing of cellphones or the sending or receiving of text messages during class or updating or checking your status on various social media platforms during class time.

Learners may use their cellphones/electronic devices before school until the first bell at 07.50.  Thereafter cellphones/electronic devices must be switched off until first break where calls/messages may be received outside the school building and corridors.  In the remaining sessions on either side of the second break the same rule applies.  Learners are free to use their cellphones after 14.35 Monday to Fridays.

4.2     The theft, borrowing, using, breaking, damaging, defacing, hiding, removing or going into the memory or storage capacity of a cellphone or electronic device belonging to someone else.

4.3     Sending hoax bomb or other threats so as to avoid or condense class time, or disrupt tests or exams.

4.4     The use of cellphones to gain an advantage or break or circumvent exam rules or procedures.

4.5     Alerting miscreants to the presence/approach of the Headmaster, a teacher or other disciplinary officer.

4.6     The use of a cellphone in the selling or distribution or procurement of drugs or other banned or illegal substances, the dissemination of threats, cyber-bullying or harassment, unwanted text messaging, or the arrangement or co-ordination of anti-social activities.

4.7     The taking, viewing or distribution of inappropriate photos, making video clips of fighting, capturing inappropriate sexual behaviour of learners or downloading inappropriate images from the internet.

4.8     The provoking of a teacher and then capture and circulate the resultant response.

4.9     The playing of music through sound amplification equipment.  Music can only be listened to through earphones and for the individual learners’ pleasure.

4.10   Publishing, posting, distributing or disseminating material or information that Fairmont High School determines is threatening, harassing, illegal, obscene, defamatory, slanderous, unlawful or hostile towards any individual or entity.  This includes the spreading of rumours and misinformation.

4.11   Publishing, posting, distributing or disseminating material or comments that infringe on the rights and privacy of Fairmont High School or any individual or entity.  This includes personal attacks or comments disparaging an individual or group.

4.12   Learners who chose to submit content onto websites or other forms of online media must ensure that their submission does not reflect poorly upon the school and bring the name of the school into disrepute.

4.13   The use of the electronic device to listen to music during lessons or during the change between lessons.

  1. BRINGING CELLPHONES AND ELECTRONIC DEVICES TO SCHOOL

Within these parameters, learners are allowed to bring cellphones to school on the understanding that:

5.1     The use of cellphones and electronic devices at school is a privilege which may be forfeited by any learner not abiding by the school’s Code of Conduct or the stipulations of this policy.

5.2     Learners are personally and solely responsible for the security of their cellphones and electronic devices.  Not the school, the staff nor the education department will assume any responsibility for theft, loss, or damage of a cellphone or electronic device, or any unauthorised use thereof.

5.3     There will be no use of a cellphone or electronic device in any manner whatsoever during class time or in classrooms, except where such usage is specifically authorised by teachers for legitimate educational purposes, as part of lesson plans and/or academic programmes.  Such usage is at the sole discretion of the supervising teacher, who is responsible for monitoring, controlling and overseeing such usage.

5.4     The use of a cellphone or electronic device to capture, store or transmit unauthorized pictures, or undesirable, illegal or pornographic material is strictly prohibited on the school premises, during school-sponsored or educational activities or outings, or while travelling to and from school or school sponsored outing or activities, again except where such usage is specifically authorised by teachers.  Such authorisation will normally only be granted for legitimate, broad educational purposes, as part of lesson plans and/or academic, sporting, cultural or service programmes.  Such usage will be permitted at the sole discretion of the supervising teacher, who will be responsible for monitoring, controlling and overseeing such usage.

5.5     Use for purposes other than those listed above (e.g. to contact their home, to reschedule lifts, etc.) may be granted by a teacher or the responsible duty teacher in the Discipline Control Room.

5.6     Use of cellphones or electronic devices before the beginning of the school day, or after its conclusion, will not be controlled by the school, with the proviso that no provisions of the school’s Code of Conduct are broken, and no actions referred to in point 4 (sub-points 4.1 to 4.12 inclusive), nor 5.3, nor any other inappropriate actions, are undertaken consequent on the use or possession of a cellphone or similar device.

  1. OWNERSHIP AND PRIVACY

6.1       In order to manage the wellbeing and safety of all who are part of the school, and to maintain the integrity of school systems, the school reserves the right to check on usage and content (including by random monitoring) of any files, messages, pictures, images or similar which are created, received, stored, transferred to, viewed, read, sent from or received using a cellphone or other device present on school property, at a school or school-sponsored function or activity, or on the way to school or school sponsored activity, regardless of whether the device was actually used on school property, at a school function or not.

6.2       Access to the worldwide web, e-mail services, the internet and school servers at this school are filtered and managed in-house.  Communication via e-mail on the school system cannot therefore be regarded as private, and the same conditions apply to messages, data or images on any cellphone or similar device brought to, found at or used on or in close proximity to the school premises, at school, or during school or at a school or school sponsored function or activity.

6.3       It is a condition of the use of the permission granted in terms of this policy that the school has the right to investigate the e-mail or account and equipment, including cellphones and similar devices, and also social networking domains such as Facebook and Twitter, of any user who, in the opinion of the Headmaster or his/her delegate, which opinion shall be based on reasonable suspicion and/or first-hand eye-witness reports, might be transgressing the rules or the spirit of this policy.

6.4       In the event of any part of this policy being transgressed by a pupil or other person using the equipment brought to school or a school or school sponsored activity or belonging to or in the possession of a pupil at school or a school or school-sponsored or school-approved activity, the following sanctions may be applied:

6.4.1       Any staff member who sees a learner using a cellphone in contradiction of the specifications of this code shall confiscate the device and hand it in at Reception for safekeeping.  Date, time, name of learner, name of teacher who confiscated the device, name of the owner of the cellphone and reason for the confiscation must be handed to the front office for recording.  Details of evidence of inappropriate content must be reported to the Deputy Head.

6.4.2       If it is suspected, based on reasonable grounds, first-hand, eyewitness reports or clear evidence that anyone is using a cellphone in contradiction of any of sections 4.3 to 4.12 and 5.3 of this code, those authorised to do so by the Headmaster will be expected to intervene and inspect the contents of the device to determine whether it has been or is being used for a purpose which is contrary to school policy.

6.4.3       Should such evidence be found, it must be reported to the Deputy Head, who may take the matter further, either through an internal disciplinary process, or by reporting it to other authorities, including the School Governing Body, the school counsellor, a social worker, the education department or the police.

6.5       When handheld devices like cellphones, iPhones, BlackBerrys, iTouch or other electronic devices are confiscated from a learner, the following sanctions will apply:

6.5.1       1st offence – the device will be confiscated and parents will be contacted and informed of the incident.  The learner may retrieve the device from the school office at the end of the school day.

6.5.2       2nd offence – the device will be confiscated, parents will be contacted and will be required to retrieve the device from the school.  A final warning letter will be issued and one Friday detention must be made up by the learner.

6.5.3       3rd offence – the device will be confiscated, parents will be contacted and will be required to retrieve the device from the school.  The learner accompanied by his/her parent will be required to attend a disciplinary meeting.  The disciplinary panel will issue an appropriate sanction.

Failure to abide by this Policy, as with other policies at Fairmont High School, may result in disciplinary action as described in the school’s Code of Conduct and School Rules.