Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando schools students' cell phones can be searched, board says

BROOKSVILLE — Give administrators the explicit right to search cell phones and other electronic devices, but make sure they know how and when to do it.

School Board members sent that message to the superintendent and district staff Tuesday as they approved an updated version of the district's student code of conduct.

Among the additions is a section that makes it clear that cell phones and other electronic devices are subject to a search if an administrator has "reasonable suspicion" that a student has used the gadget to commit an offense such as cheating. The district has the legal right to search electronics just as it can search a locker or car, student services director Jim Knight has said.

Even so, district staff should receive training on "what reasonable suspicion means and what ignites a reasonable suspicion," board member John Sweeney said Tuesday.

"I think teachers and administrators need to … know what they're doing before they do it, otherwise I'm not comfortable letting them loose," Sweeney said.

Teachers won't actually be conducting searches, Hernando Classroom Teachers Association president Joe Vitalo noted. Teachers can report incidents, but the decisions to search are left to administrators.

"I still think (teachers) need to know what's going on," Sweeney replied.

Chairman Pat Fagan and board member James Yant agreed. Board member Sandra Nicholson was absent due to do a family medical issue and board member Dianne Bonfield was out of town.

The training on searches, the updated bullying policy and other aspects of the student code will begin this summer when administrators meet for the annual summer leadership conference, Superintendent Bryan Blavatt said.

Among the other additions and revisions to the code:

• The iPod will be added to the list of prohibited electronic devices.

• The code will clearly state that school officials will call police if an image sent by cell phone or other device contains nude images of people.

• Prevention classes would be required in some cases of disciplinary action.

For example, students found guilty of a first offense of sexual harassment or bullying would be required to take a course on those subjects in addition to out-of-school suspension.

Participation in a mentoring program has also been added as a possible consequence.

• High school seniors found guilty of "pranks" or "vandalism" that result in out-of-school suspension within the last 30 days of the school year may be barred from graduation ceremonies, a decision that can be left to the school administrator.

That adds more specific language to the current code, which simply states that "serious offenses" within the last month of school could result in sitting out commencement.

In other action, the board:

• Approved a three-year extension of the single-gender classroom pilot program that began in 2007 at Westside Elementary

Data show that students in Westside's single-gender classrooms in many cases are outpacing their peers in traditional classrooms, and parents, teachers, and students overwhelmingly support the program, Westside principal Dominick Ferello told the board. Blavatt recommended that the board grant Ferello's request to extend the program.

• Reached consensus to extend board attorney Paul Carland's contract for another year. A vote is set for May 18.

All five board members gave Carland glowing written evaluations, rating him in 18 categories under the headings of performance, professional services, communication and organization. The scale extended from 1 to 9, with 9 being "excellent," and Carland did not receive a single score lower than an 8. Carland, who started with the district in 2005, has an annual salary of $110,000. He did not ask for a raise this year.

"In these times, I'm thankful to have my position," he said.

Tony Marrero can be reached at or (352)848-1431.

Hernando schools students' cell phones can be searched, board says 05/04/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 4, 2010 8:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. And the most-searched NFL player in Florida is ...


    The Bucs just faced the Jacksonville Jaguars in preseason, and open their 2017 season at the Miami Dolphins. So with the state's NFL competition ahead of and just behind the Bucs, who do you think is the NFL player most searched on Google by Floridians?

    Fans react with excitement moments after the Bucs announce their first-round pick at the team's 2016 NFL draft party. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  2. Video captures shark attack on seal at crowded beach


    ORLEANS, Mass. — A shark attack on a seal at a Cape Cod beach sent beachgoers scrambling, and surfers a few yards away had to frantically swim to shore.

    Thayer Wade captured video of  a shark attacking a seal off a Cape Cod beach. His uncle Pat O'Brien shared the video on Twitter.
  3. Florida firefighter spears giant 409-pound grouper in St. Pete Beach competition


    ST. PETERSBURG — It took six sets of hands to drag a 409-pound Warsaw Grouper to the stage.

    James Taylor, a Bradenton firefighter, speared a 409-pound grouper near St. Pete Beach during a competition over the weekend. (Courtesy of Michelle Taylor)
  4. Don't know what to do with those eclipse glasses? Donate them.

    Human Interest

    Those who were able to snag a pair of coveted solar eclipse glasses for Monday's event witnessed a moment in history. But now that the eclipse is over, many are left wondering: What do I do with my …

    Workers pass out eclipse viewing glasses during a solar eclipse party on August 21, 2017 at the Museum of Science and Industry, in Tampa, Fla. Tampa experienced a partial eclipse. [MONICA HERNDON  |  Times]
  5. Treasury secretary's wife boasts of travel on government plane, touts high fashion


    U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's wife, Louise Linton, boasted of flying on a government plane with her husband to Kentucky on Monday and then named the numerous fashion brands she wore on the trip in an unusual social media post that only became more bizarre minutes later.

    Steven Mnuchin and his then- financee Louise Linton watch as President Donald Trump speaks during Mnuchin's swearing-in ceremony as  treasury secretary in the Oval Office of the White House on Feb. 13. [Mandel Ngan | AFP via Getty Images]