Volusia schools looking to strengthen punishments for vaping, cellphones
‘We’ve got to stop this,’ said Craig Pender, Coordinator for Student Services
WKMG ClickOrlando | By Molly Reed | August 8, 2023
DELAND, Fla. – Volusia County goes back to school on Monday, and the school board is looking to change some of the rules on its student code of conduct and the punishments for breaking it.
The school board met Tuesday to discuss some of the issues. The board wants to help teachers and administrators with enforcement and limit the growing number of distractions on campuses.
Among the debated topics were vaping and cell phones on school campuses.
The district’s student services team told the board that teachers were catching students as young as second and third grade vaping last year.
Now, starting this school year, students will first get a warning. Then, if caught again with one, will get a five-day suspension, and if caught using, it get a 10-day suspension.
“We’ve got to stop this. We still have a lot of parents using the excuse that it’s a sensation thing,” said Craig Pender, Coordinator for Student Services.
The board is debating how to ensure administrators all across the county are enforcing the new rules equally.
Also, up for debate is cell phone usage, along with smart watches and headphones, and what the punishment should be if students are caught breaking the rules.
“I still to this day do not understand why an elementary age student needs a cell phone,” said Board Chair Jamie Haynes.
The current code of conduct lets allows a teacher to decide when cell phones can be out and school administrators decides the level of punishment if that is broken.
The board is now debating if it should be an across all grade levels bell-to bell-policy, meaning phones cannot be heard or seen during the day while school is in session.
Volusia United Educators Union President Elizabeth Albert said it’s a good start to addressing the issues teachers are dealing with now.
“We know that one of the reasons teachers and support staff leave the profession is because of issues with student violence and discipline,” she said.
She hopes the board will also tackle increasing punishment for students acting out in class and acting violent in school. Both are issues she feels are getting more prominent each year.
“Until we actually see a reduction in the amount of violence within the four walls of our schools and in our classroom, we’re not hitting the mark yet,” she said.
No date has been set yet for the board to vote on a new cell phone policy.