Henrico schools to institute reward policy for proper use

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - Schools leaders believe it's not enough to punish students who violate the technology policy. This year - they're trying out a series of rewards for the students who help keep the number of violations down.

In the spring of 2009 the bad news seemed to keep on coming. In March and April, the police investigated a case of "sexting" at county middle schools. Then, in May, the arrest of a high school coach accused of receiving, on a cell phone, nude images of two students. But they were only a small part of what turned out to be a year of decreasing technology violations.

"Some of the incidents that we've dealt with in the past involve Henrico county property, some of it is the student's personal electronic property," said Eric Jones, Henrico County Public Schools Director of High School Education

According to the most recent state filing, Henrico county public schools reported 197 technology violations in the latest school year. Most were for "unacceptable use" - which could be anything from internet "cyber bullying", to sending nude pictures, or just using a cell phone in class. The penalties include suspension or even expulsion, but this year the schools are focusing on the positive.

"We're hopeful that the incentive plans that are going into place will be a carrot instead of a stick," said Jones.

Middle and high-school students who follow all the rules for their school issued laptops may get "rewarded".

"They may have raffles for pizza parties or prizes such as iPods or movie tickets or gift cards," he said.

With 25,000 middle and high school students, keeping the numbers low remains a challenge. One that school leaders say is far outweighed by technology's benefits.

"It's worth the price when you look at the small number of infractions that we have, and the less than 1% of students that are actually using the laptops inappropriately," Jones said.

Students must also understand the real-world consequences of these violations. The commonwealth's attorney declined to prosecute the middle-school sexting. But the case involving the high school coach - is still pending in the court system.

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