- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 8, 2005

COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) — Following hundreds of angry phone calls and e-mails, school officials in this Army base city have reduced a suspension imposed on a student who wouldn’t give up his cell phone while talking to his mom — a sergeant on duty in Iraq.

The angry calls about the boy’s suspension got so bad at one point that secretaries had to take their phones off the hook, Assistant Principal Alfred Parham said.

Kevin Francois, a 17-year-old junior at Spencer High School, was suspended for 10 days for disorderly conduct Wednesday after a teacher told him to give up his cell phone outside the school during his lunch break and he refused, the teen said.

The boy said he had not expected the call from his mother, Sgt. 1st Class Monique Bates, who left in January for a one-year tour of duty. The teacher said the confrontation happened in a hallway, not outside, and that Kevin never said the call was with his mother.

The Muscogee County School District Board of Education allows students to have cell phones in school but not to use them during school hours.

The punishment for violating that policy is that the phone is confiscated until the end of the day. But Kevin was suspended for cursing and being defiant, Mr. Parham said. That was extended to 10 days because “he did not want to accept the three-day suspension and to agree that he would not use the cell phone openly or curse.”

“We are empathetic to all students whose parents serve in the armed forces … (but) we do have behavior standards which we uphold,” Superintendent John A. Phillips Jr. said.

On Friday, the school district reduced the suspension to three days, which will allow Kevin to return to school tomorrow, after officials met with him, the guardian who cares for him while his mother is out of the country, and a representative of her unit.

“People are fussing at us, calling us names,” Assistant Principal Wendell Turner said.

Mr. Parham said, however, that Kevin’s behavior at school has been “a chronic problem.”

And Kevin added: “I’m not a golden child and I’ve been wrong, but I was right this time.”

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