Hannibal School District to revise cellphone policy, but School Board members can’t decide when

Superintendent Susan Johnson

Hannibal Superintendent Susan Johnson | Shane Hulsey

HANNIBAL, Mo. — The Hannibal School District could soon make revisions to its cellphone policy.

Board members engaged in spirited discussion during Thursday’s School Board meeting about how and when to make changes regarding the district’s cell phone policy.

“Something has to be done,” board president Blane Mundle said.

When something will be done remains in question. Superintendent Susan Johnson said getting teacher input is necessary before the policy is altered.

“Whatever we ask our teachers to do, we have to be ready to back it up,” Johnson said. “I’m not saying it can’t be done. I’m just saying communication on something like that is going to be very important. Otherwise, we’re putting teachers in a difficult situation. I feel very uncomfortable implementing a policy without teacher input.”

Mundle agreed.

“We must get input before we say, ‘Hey we’re going to ban everything,’ but we have to get that input, and we have to come back and take some kind of action,” Mundle said.

Johnson suggested taking the next school year to have those conversations. Board member Jeff Evans did not think it would take quite that long.

“We make policy, change policy and modify policy pretty fluidly,” Evans said. “We don’t have to wait a whole year for policy to change. We just have to make sure we communicate and talk to the stakeholders, but I don’t think there’s a reason to delay it a whole year. If we decide on it, we can implement it.”

Board member Ron Greenwell also wants to see action taken sooner rather than later.

“We’ve got to do something about it. It’s an epidemic,” Greenwell said. “I’ll talk to as many schools as I can, but it is a cancer we have to deal with and deal with quickly.”

Physical education teacher Melissa Menze recommended taking the first semester to gather the necessary information to make a decision on any potential changes.

“Realistically, by the end of the semester would be a good time for people to be together, have conversations,” Menze said. “This will take more than one conversation. You’ve got to think about how you’re going to present the policy so teachers can really enforce it the way you have it written in the policy.”

Policy at Hannibal High School states students can use their devices before school, during lunch in the cafeteria only and in the classroom at the teacher’s discretion. Students at Hannibal Middle School are not allowed to use electronic devices after 7:45 a.m. and during normal school hours unless given permission.

Evans suggested setting one universal policy across the high school and middle school to achieve a higher level of consistency.

“It would really help to have a board policy from the top down because nobody likes to be the bad guy,” Evans said. “Teachers like to be liked, so some of them don’t really want to say, ‘Hey, give me that cell phone.’ Principals don’t like to have to be heavy on those things. I would also make it consistent from middle school to high school just so they can get in the habit of knowing the expectations and not have it change dramatically going to high school.”

Johnson emphasized that balance is key, especially in today’s technology-heavy world.

“I know many times parents want children to have access to phones for safety purposes, transportation, those types of things,” Johnson said. “It’s about finding some balance where you can have some phones but not have them be disruptive.”

In other business, the board chose to keep mid-term graduations and approved a policy requiring students to have a 90 percent cumulative attendance for the current academic year to attend school dances. It also approved a policy stating that students with eight absences in a class per semester will lose credit for that class.

The board adopted the 2024-25 preliminary budget and approved 2024-25 meal prices and math curriculum. It also voted to move board meetings to the third Tuesday of the month beginning in August.

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