Once forbidden at school, cellphones are now permitted in high school hallways and even in the classroom, if the teacher approves.

Once forbidden at school, cellphones are now permitted in high school hallways and even in the classroom, if the teacher approves.

A policy recently approved by the Worthington Board of Education loosens up restrictions on the use of phones, laptops, iPads, and other wireless communication devices (WCDs).

The district has evolved over the past five or six years, said George Joseph, director of administrative services. Most recently, cellphones were allowed in the commons areas at the high schools, but not in the rest of the school.

Enforcing such rules became difficult, he acknowledged.

"No, students shouldn't make or receive a call or text," he said. "Are there kids doing it? Yes."

The new policy acknowledges that WCDs are part of life, and encourages students to learn proper etiquette and to embrace technology as a learning tool.

As the policy goes into effect, students at both high schools will be able to power up to assist in instruction during the school day.

"We need to embrace technology rather than police something we can't control," Joseph said.

The policy cites examples of WCDs that include cellphones, iPods, iPads, MP3 players, pagers/beepers, personal digital assistants, smart phones, any Wi-Fi-enabled or broadband access devices, etc.

It further cites positive uses of WCDs, including creation of files, projects, videos, websites and podcasts; participation in blogs, wikis, bulletin boards and approved social-networking sites; and publishing original educational material.

The policy clearly states that the network, Internet resources, and mobile devices may be used for "incidental personal use."

They also may be "implemented into classroom instructional practices by the classroom teacher."

WCDs may not be used during testing. That includes classroom quizzes and exams as well as standardized tests.

Also, the policy notes that federal law prohibits using WCDs to record audio or images of any person in school, either during the school day or while attending a school-related activity. Prior notice and explicit consent are required for either.

Using WCDs that contain built-in cameras is prohibited in locker rooms and restrooms.

The policy also prohibits using a WCD to threaten, humiliate, harass, embarrass, or intimidate.

In elementary and middle schools, the rules will vary.

"This gives teachers and principals more flexibility to use them if they choose," Joseph said.