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New cellphone policy for Escambia & Santa Rosa schools

There's a new cellphone policy in effect for Escambia and Santa Rosa County Schools. The change in policy was made so students and school employees can use cellphones as educational devices. But some are worried that not all students will have access to the smart technology. Channel 3's Kalie Desimone spoke with Escambia County School Superintendent Malcolm Thomas and has more on the matter.

There are just 40 days left before students in Escambia county will return to school. When they go back, they'll be able to carry one of these around and for the first time it can be turned on. "They have to be on silent or vibrate" says Malcolm Thomas, Superintendent of Escambia County School District. Last year, if a student used their cellphone during school hours, they could be disciplined. But not any more. Superintendent Malcolm Thomas says the change in policy is a way for both teachers and students to embrace cellphones as educational devices. "The lines are blurred between a simple communication device as a phone and a tool that can be used for learning" says Thomas. But the teachers and principals at each school will still be able to tell students, 'turn your phone off' or 'you can't use it at this moment'. "I can understand if maybe they had it on them for an emergency other than that no, it's a bad idea" says Jon Forrister. Jon Forrister has other concerns about the new policy too: "There's a library and encyclopedias. I don't think they need Google. It's lazy" says Forrister. Another question some have: what will happen if a student doesn't have a cell phone or other smart device? "If it's a lesson that's going to require ipads, there would be school district ipads available for those who don't have the device" says Thomas. Malcolm Thomas says many students were getting in trouble for reading books on their smart devices and those are behaviors he wants to encourage rather than discipline.