Paris ISD trustees unanimously approved the district’s dress code, employee handbook and student code of conduct after debating whether there should be a written rule against students using cellphones to record certain events on school property or at school-sanctioned events.
It’s been an enforced but unwritten rule for years, Assistant Superintendent Gary Preston told trustees Monday. The district’s attorney recommends adding it to the Student Code of Conduct to help head off arguments from parents of punished students who would argue the rule doesn’t exist, Preston said.
The rule is not meant to prevent students from recording and sharing positive events on school property and at school-sanctioned events, Preston said. Principals often grant blanket permission at the beginning of the year for students to film and share their friends playing sports, but if a fight were to break out, the students would be required to stop recording or they could face a greater punishment than the students involved in the fight.
“Let’s say there’s a fight in the cafeteria. A fight in the cafeteria is a fight in the cafeteria. They go on in schools everywhere every day. You put that thing on camera and it makes its way around social media, and it just spawns all sorts of worse and more serious things, potentially,” Preston said, adding punishment for recording such events ranges from a verbal warning to referring a student to the Disciplinary Alternative Education Program.
“I have a real problem with a kid who videotapes an offense going to DAEP,” Trustee Jenny Wilson said. “I mean, I think we should be more concerned with the kids who are actually in the fight than the kid videoing the fight.”
“Even when he puts it on social media and it gets 1,000 shares? … It’s worse than the two kids who are fighting,” Preston said, later adding keeping such videos off social media is for the safety of the school and students.
Wilson argued the situation would not be “desirable,” adding it would be the district’s “PR nightmare,” but the broadness of the rule and punishments concerned her. She also worried the district might not have the right to tell kids what they can and cannot record.
“We have the right, and we have the responsibility to do that because it jeopardizes the safety of that school when certain events get put out on social media happening in our school,” Preston argued. “To me, it’s a non-negotiable.”
The district already has a rule in place that students may not have their cellphone turned on or visible during class time. They are allowed to use their phones in the cafeteria during lunch, Wilson said.
Assistant Superintendent Althea Dixon said students have been punished in the past for such offenses, though none have been so severe they were sent to alternative school. Such a punishment could be levied if the video recording showed students engaging in sex or illicit drug use, she said.
“It would be a far-fetched — but you never know,” Preston said before the board approved the rule.