Cellular phone violations in the Vilonia School District have school officials scratching their heads as to a way to inspire students to comply.  

"This is something we despise dealing with," said high school principal Ed Sellers. 

Dr. Frank Mitchell, district superintendent, broached the subject during April’s school board of education meeting while mulling over student policies for 2010/11. The policy, he said, that troubles the Vilonia schools most is the one banning the possession of cellular phones. What is being done, Mitchell said, is not an ideal solution.

"We are seeing too many suspensions," Mitchell offered. However, he said, "I don’t know if you can write a perfect policy."

The student policy states that if a student takes a cellular phone to school, they may turn it in at the principal’s office and pick up at the end of the day without recourse.  However, if they are caught with one in their possession, a first offense will result in Saturday school, a second offense three days of suspension, a third offense, five days of suspension and a fourth offense, expulsion. It was also said that students, in special circumstances, have been granted a waiver for a designated time. 

Mitchell expressed his concerns that "phones aren’t just phones anymore." He talked about the capabilities including video and camera recording as well as text messaging.  He shared his fears that unacceptable photos might be snapped in school restrooms and posted on the Internet. 

The board questioned Sellers, who was an audience member, concerning the degree of violations at the high school.  It’s a major problem, he said. 

"Thirteen cell phones were confiscated in one day," he said. Explaining that circumstance, he said, a student was caught cheating on a test via text messaging using a phone. Confiscating that phone, officials learned that several other students were also involved and the answers were being provided by a person away from the school.  In response, school board president Danny Lawrence shook his head expressing his aversion. 

"Why can’t they just understand the rule that no cell phones are allowed at school?," Lawrence offered. It should be no different, he said, than the acceptance of the rule regarding the possession of drugs or  tobacco products. A rule is a rule, he said, made for a reason and to be enforced. Educating students and parents, he said, concerning the problems that the phones are causing in the school may help with the problem, he suggested. 

Board members turned to a student in the audience and inquired as to his opinion.  He said he had been sent to a Saturday school for a one-time offense and "learned his lesson." He also said his dad reinforced the punishment.  Sellers said he wished that was the case with all parents. 

"We address it every way we can address it," he said, including at student orientation.