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Buffalo schools try to clarify cell phone policy Board amends 2008-09 code of conduct governing disciplinary action to be taken

The Buffalo School Board on Wednesday approved some additions to the district's 2008-09 code of conduct, including an amendment to its policy on the use of cell phones by students.

North District board member Catherine Nugent Panepinto questioned the wisdom of a clause in the policy governing disciplinary action that may be taken by building principals against students who are caught in violation of rules that prohibit students from carrying and using cell phones on school property. As originally crafted, the clause read, "Students will be disciplined for their actions as deemed necessary by the building principal."

"I don't know if this is a question for our attorney," said Panepinto, "but that just seems very vague to me. . . . It seems like it's giving a lot of power to building principals."

At the suggestion of a school district administrator, board members agreed to amend the clause to read, "Students will be disciplined for their action pursuant to Board of Education policy and education law by the building superintendent."

Ferry board member Pamela Cahill, Ralph Hernandez of the West District and at-large member Florence D. Johnson voted against the amendment. Cahill said she believes cell phones are entirely unnecessary for students at school.

"I think that there are other ways that communication can take place. I really don't feel that it's a need at this time. I wouldn't mind if I had feedback from my constituents on that, because many people tell me: 'Get rid of [the cell phones in school]," Cahill said.

Johnson raised concerns that some students might be tempted to harm each other over cell phones, and Hernandez questioned whether administrators had thoroughly thought out the policy.

School administrators said the district's code of conduct is crafted by a group of "stakeholders" in the district, including parents and school district labor representatives who offer their recommendations to the board unfiltered.

In other items at Wednesday's meeting, members of the school bus aides' union urged the board to adopt a living wage law that would allow the aides to earn a "reasonable" hourly wage. Betty Martin, president of the union, said bus aides earn between $7.66 and $9.05 per hour.

Meanwhile, Duane Rush, vice president of the union, complained about students he said have threatened aides with physical violence when the aides write the pupils up for misbehaving on school buses.

At-large board member Christopher Jacobs suggested the board explore the idea of installing cameras on school buses, but Cahill said more training in conflict resolution for the aides might be a more efficient and less expensive alternative.

Also at Wednesday's meeting, the district's chief financial and operating officer, Gary M. Crosby, announced the district was named one of the top three districts in the area of financial organization by the Council of Great City Schools, a national organization.


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