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Updated: 08/06/2014 08:00:02AM

Cellphones OK, but not bandanas

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When Polk County students return to the classroom on Aug. 18, they will be able to access their cellphones or other electronics, but won’t be able to wear bandanas or smoke their electronic cigarettes according to new policies recently adopted by the Polk County School Board.

Under the revised Student Code of Conduct, bandanas are banned since they have been linked to outlawed gangs, said Assistant Superintendent Nancy Woolcott.

“Some kids wear them to show what gang they belong to,” she said, adding that school officials had asked for the ban.

Students will be allowed to wear hoodies or sweatshirts or sweaters with attached hoods; these formerly had been banned. Woolcott said the revision was fostered by parents who maintained that hooded jackets were sometimes warranted by cold weather.

Although e-cigarettes were banned in the conduct code last school year under the definition of tobacco products, the new code includes “e-cigarettes and other nicotine dispensing devices.” The code also bans matches and cigarette lighters.

“The vapor inhaling devices were already banned,” Woolcott said, “but e-cigarettes have become very popular, so we wanted to be specific.”

Kids won’t miss texting to their friends on the bus this coming year since the school board lifted its ban on the electronic devices during school hours or on the bus. However, the devises can only be used for school purposes or at specific times.

Also, students can use their phones on buses and in the classroom only if authorized by their teachers or principals. The revised code still prohibits their use in “non-education related communications.”

Some schools have also changed or will be changing their classroom times. At Bartow Middle School, for example, students will spend more time in each class and stagger their schedules to allow for 90-minute blocks rather than the 45-minute daily sessions in each classroom. This gives the teachers more classroom time and students are not changing classes as often.

Other changes include allowing additional time for new students to buy school uniforms if required or conform to the dress codes and require bus drivers or attendants to witness incidents that could result in disciplinary measures.

Earlier this year, the school board adopted establishing school bus hubs to cut down on bus stops, so parents are urged to contact their children’s schools to identify the stop locations.

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