Durango School District 9-R is considering a cellphone ban that could go into effect at the middle schools next school year.
The new rule could prohibit students from using their cellphones at all during school hours. Middle school students currently are not supposed to have phones out during class without permission, but they can access phones in between classes and during lunch, 9-R spokeswoman Julie Popp said.
Administrators at the two middle schools requested the 9-R board consider the ban, Superintendent Dan Snowberger said.
Durango High School has not expressed interest in a similar step, he said.
The 9-R board members seemed open to considering the idea and possibly including elementary schools in the policy. They asked Snowberger to seek feedback on the issue from parents and teachers.
The board also wanted to know whether research would support a ban and what a potential policy would say.
The proposed rules are being discussed about a month after the school district announced an investigation by the Durango Police Department into the widespread sharing of explicit and inappropriate photographs, mainly via SnapChat, among middle school and high school students.
Board member Andrea Parmenter said in light of the investigation, she would like to see more education about sexting in schools and how to use technology responsibly because some students did not understand the photos would be considered child pornography, she said.
“They don’t consider themselves children,” she said.
Snowberger said the schools have talked about how to change their practices after the investigation and the ban could be part of those changes.
To educate parents about the dangers that children face online, Durango police Detective Josh Newman spoke to parents Monday at Escalante Middle School about sexting, cyberbullying and online predators.
He said the investigation into the sexting was ongoing, and he could not say how many students were involved.
“I am not even close to being finished because it’s just rampant,” he said.
Newman said he is taking an educational approach to his investigation. It will be resolved when he has spoken with as many students and their parents as possible. He does not expect to reach everyone involved.
While meeting with students, Newman said he tries to help them understand that nude or explicit photos shared online, even with one person, are often spread among much larger circles.
Among 9-R students, photos were placed in shared SnapChat accounts, where they were rated by other students as a form of cyberbullying, he said.
He could not say how many students were involved in the ratings. He described cyberbullying as an “everyday” occurrence.
“Our kids are just destroying each other left and right,” he said.
He advised parents to talk with their students about sexting and other potential online dangers.
Parents can find more information about how to monitor their child’s online behavior at the Colorado Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.