(TNS) — OTTUMWA, Iowa — Some school board members seemed surprised the district had no policy governing smartphone use among employees. With the district being one of the 10 largest employers in Wapello County, they're working to rectify that.

This week, the district presented the first reading of a cellphone regulation. But it's not as restrictive as some might guess.

"Sometimes, just the ability to use the camera function can make a big difference," said Angie Sheets, the school district instructional technology coach.

Before the meeting, she said she appreciates how the district values the potential educational benefits of smartphones.

In one instance, an ill student wanted to do both her homework and see the project that the class was working on. Unfortunately, the teacher couldn't even email the documents because they were "hard copy" only.

The technology coach showed the teacher how to position the papers and use her phone to snap a photo. The pair then sent the image to the student.

Some teaching apps are available directly on a smartphone, too. So phones would not be banned. Inappropriate use would be.

Examples of inappropriate cellphone usage are included with the policy — at least the first draft: offensive statements, including texts, meant to harm someone's reputation or contribute to a hostile work environment are the main offense.

The latter, Superintendent Nicole Kooiker read, named actions already covered in district policy: harassment based on gender, race, age, color, sexual orientation, disability or religion will be forbidden by cellphone.

An additional statement, however, also reveals "cellphone records may be subject to review by ... district personnel ... and [certain] cellphone use may constitute a public record and be subject to an open records request."

There's another policy the board wants to see implemented, as none exists now: Official rules governing employee use of social media, especially in regards to contacting students.

Kooiker said at her last district, which did have a policy in place, contact from a teacher or coach could be made to groups of students (like a sports team that has practice canceled) but not to an individual student.

The next board meeting is scheduled for Dec. 12.

©2016 the Ottumwa Courier (Ottumwa, Iowa), distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.