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The high school keeps cell phones overnight. How can I convince them that's a mistake?
August 22, 2011 4:04 PM   Subscribe

The local high school confiscates cell phones for 24 hours -- and that makes me crazy. How can I craft a solid argument for their return to students when school lets out?

My kid's high school policy is to confiscate cell phones if they ring in class or the kid gets caught texting. I have no issue with that.

However, they keep the phone for 24 hours, which means my kid doesn't have her phone after school lets out in case of an emergency, or to find out that she needs to pick up her younger sib (we communicate by text after school to run the rest of our day), or to answer the elderly lady who calls her to ask for help. Also, it makes me uncomfortable that they would hold private property overnight. If the phone is stolen from the Attendance desk, am I going to be out of pocket?

Does anyone know where I can find out what other schools' policies are (to bolster the very polite letter I am writing)? And/or do you have any suggestions for what this letter should say?
posted by Ink-stained wretch to Law & Government (39 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think keeping it simple is best here: Show up in person, request that they return your property at the end of the school day, and note that you will handle the child's inappropriate usage accordingly, but that they may not keep the cell phone past 3pm. It's not a negotiation.
posted by ellF at 4:17 PM on August 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


I entered the following in google and came up with a whole lot of stories about similar policies:confiscating cell phones high school policy

There should be some good material in there for you.

I'd be tempted to circulate a petition against this policy.
posted by mareli at 4:20 PM on August 22, 2011


ellf, that is a good point. Don't negotiate about my family's private property. Hopefully, I won't get the chance because my kid won't have her phone taken (again - it happened last year). My issue is I work out of town, and will not be nearby to swoop in and get it, should it happen again. I am trying to get a policy change/prevent it from happening at all, so I won't have any of the issues listed above.
posted by Ink-stained wretch at 4:22 PM on August 22, 2011


Looking at it from the school's perspective: Schools need a way to penalize students who bring and use cellphones in class. If students get their phones back at the end of the day then there is little reason for them not to try to get away with it every day.

You would need to come up with another compelling way to penalize students that break the rules and therefore reduce the distracting and obnoxious use of cellphones in class.

Schools could become real hardasses about this, btw. When I was in school, banned items had to be collected by the student's parents. In practice that meant that items often stayed with the principal for weeks or months.
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:23 PM on August 22, 2011 [11 favorites]


I'm pretty sure Ellf nailed it on the head.
posted by darkgroove at 4:26 PM on August 22, 2011


Tell your child to make sure it doesn't ring or get caught texting in class. I teach high school and phones get confiscated until parents appear in person to pick them up. The idea is that the delay is a deterrent, otherwise the school is just providing a cell-phone holding service for the day.
posted by bquarters at 4:29 PM on August 22, 2011 [18 favorites]


My school does this, but it's even worse:

We confiscate the phone for 24 hours. Second offense - a week. Third offense - the whole trimester.

There are other ways to contact your child during the day - the teachers most likely have phones in their room/on their person and the school also has an office phone. I know it's inconvenient, but your kid shouldn't be playing with their phone in class.

Or you can get it at the office. We usually relent if a parent comes down to the school.
posted by brynna at 4:31 PM on August 22, 2011


I think you are going about this in the wrong way, and should rather be figuring out a) why your kid keeps getting her cell phone taken away, and b) why it's totally impossible to run your family life if your kid doesn't have a cell phone for 24 hours. (I remember when I went 25 straight years without a cell phone once...I bet others have beaten my record)

I don't have any suggestions for a), but as far as b) goes, why can't your kid borrow her friend's cell phone and call you to let you know after school, in the (extremely rare, one would think) event that her phone gets confiscated.
posted by Kwine at 4:40 PM on August 22, 2011 [38 favorites]


You may have limited success in an argument with the administration. My elementary school kept all confiscated electronics till the end of the term - you got it back the last day before Christmas, or the last day of June, depending on when it was taken. One kid lost three Gameboys in a single term (and no, I don't know why his parents kept getting him another one, since all it did was take up space in our teacher's locked desk drawer.) Some parents were furious and argued about it at parent/teacher night, and the school never budged.

Bottom line is, you let your child take the thing to school, and it's her behavior that's causing the confiscation. Since you know about the policy, and she knows about the policy, they're not on ridiculously sandy ground here.

(You may have better luck going through the school board, if the administration won't back down - it's generally made up of parents. Bringing it up through the PTA is also an option.)
posted by SMPA at 4:54 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also a high school teacher from a school with a similar cell phone policy. I know that in the past, we've ALWAYS released cell phones to parents whenever they personally come in.

But I also want to emphasise that students texting and getting phone calls in class is becoming more endemic every year and it seriously affects their abilty to focus and be successful in school. And who is usually calling or texting students? Other students on campus and THEIR OWN PARENTS. Worst case scenario, have your kid call you from the teacher/office's phone at the end of the day to check in. There are students who use my phone every single day because they don't have a cell phone. They survive. Hell - how many people in their 20's and up had a cell phone in high school? Not very many.

If you really think the policy must be changed, then make sure you come up with a reasonable alternative for what to do if students are caught texting in class. And make sure your own student doesn't violate the policy - you need to have your daughter set an example for classmates if this is a battle you want to fight.

And also consider the precedent you're setting: If you don't like a rule or find it to be an inconvenience, you just complain and it will get changed so you can do whatever you want. Is that a lesson you want your kid to learn?

I wish all parents who spend time complaining about cell phone confiscation would spend that time instead encouraging their students to get something out of their education by paying attention and working hard. Please make sure that's the message your kid is getting here.
posted by guster4lovers at 4:58 PM on August 22, 2011 [21 favorites]


I am trying to get a policy change/prevent it from happening at all, so I won't have any of the issues listed above.

Doesn't it seem like the easiest way to accomplish this is not to convince the school to change the rules for one student, but to tell your daughter that while she's in school, the phone is off limits? All of the situations you describe occur after school (emergency, picking up a sibling, helping a neighbor) so there's really no need for her to have her phone on during the school day. If she needs to check her messages for a text from you, she can wait until after class and check it discreetly somewhere outside the classroom.
posted by lucysparrow at 5:00 PM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Personally, I think the school's policy is absurd. High school students have responsibilities outside of school. It is not simply about contacting the student during school, it is about family life outside school.

That said, I think you are biting off more than you can chew by trying to change the school policy.

If I were you - I would go to the school. Speak to the guidance counsel, the dean of discipline, and the principal. Say to all of them: my child has family responsibilities. You may NOT keep my child's phone. My child will serve whatever alternate punishment (plus, I will personal kill my child at home). But, if you take my child's phone, and I have a family emergency, and someone in my family is hurt by the fact that you took the phone, then I will be contacting my lawyer.

Then, if you really want to hammer the point home, have your lawyer send a message confirming the discussion.
posted by Flood at 5:12 PM on August 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Two of her schoolmates were shot and killed last year in within blocks of her school -- by strangers, during random run-ins. I'm not interested in seeing if the policy can be changed just for my kid or just because of my kid or for my convenience. I think the policy is out of date and not smart. Having a cell phone these days for kids is not always just about texting your bff - it's often what gives parents a way to communicate with latchkey kids, allows them to call 911, and is a way to get help or stay in contact during school emergencies and earthquakes.
posted by Ink-stained wretch at 5:15 PM on August 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


Having a cell phone these days for kids is not always just about texting your bff - it's often what gives parents a way to communicate with latchkey kids, allows them to call 911, and is a way to get help or stay in contact during school emergencies and earthquakes.

I'm betting this is exactly why the school adopted this policy. If they don't make it hurt for parents as well as the kids--unfair or not--they're far less likely to get the results they want.

I know that my girlfriend's kids have to get their parents to sign an acknowledgment of the school's policies, which include cell phone rules. If you signed something similar at the beginning of the year, you might have a tough time arguing your case.
posted by Rykey at 5:27 PM on August 22, 2011


Get your child a Firefly if they can't keep from getting the phone confiscated.

Of course, I say this as the hardass that when the school told me they had confiscated my son's phone, I told them to keep for a few weeks.

You make a good case that this phone can be an important to their safety. You should convince your child to take that more seriously. They'll be driving soon - disregarding simple rules about appropriate cell phone usage can have deadly consequences.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 5:28 PM on August 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Seems like this is a good deterrent for breaking the rules. Perhaps you could suggest a policy that similarly deters classroom disruptions in another way? Perhaps a day of detention for the first offense, a week for the second, etc.

Next time the kid gets the phone confiscated, hand them a roll of quarters and tell her to start checking in every half hour.
posted by gjc at 5:31 PM on August 22, 2011


There are two constructive solutions that are apparent:
(1) training your child (if you can't do the time, don't do the crime). There are always other communication alternatives - they are just heinously inconvenient in comparison to a personal cell phone.
(2) changing the school policy - this will depend on the school, but in the school where I taught, the school/district policies were surprisingly fluid in that any parent could attend a school committee meeting and have an issue put on the meeting agenda, at least for discussion. In my district, one parent alone might stand a decent chance for having a policy changed by being open and collaborative. In other districts, you might need a petition or a larger group to reinforce that you're serious. So best to come into that meeting knowing the political currents and with a rewording in hand. For example, you might suggest that the cellphone would be returned in 24 hours or into the hands of a parent/guardian at the end of the school day, whichever comes first. Or you might suggest that for "important" communications, a student may have a 5 minute window to check their phone at the end of the day (but the phone still stays in lockup for 24 hours).

The "you can't confiscate my personal property" approach is direct and might be effective, but you might also find that you get passive aggressive retaliation if the administration or their staff choose to be a-holes.
posted by plinth at 5:47 PM on August 22, 2011


I strongly support ellF's comment, but would add the following tactic: (a) make the point that the phone is not your daughter's, but yours--whether it is or not--and that you don't consent to the confiscation of your property. And, as a last resort, (b) threaten to file a police report for theft of property. This latter part might seem to be going a little overboard, but you needn't actually follow through with it... and it very well might get them to hand over the phone without a fuss.

If they try to defer to "school policy", point out that school policy can't make confiscation of your private property legal. Schools get to act in loco parentis only with consent of their parents or legal guardians, and this doesn't entitle them to play fast and loose with the law. So even though such consent is normally implied, and even though this is the sort of punishment that parents often give their kids, deciding whether or not this is permissible is ultimately your perogative, not theirs.

[Also, people... the question was very specifically about crafting a solid argument for the return of student property. Posts consisting solely in one-off opinions about the merits of school confiscation policies, or of student cellphone use in schools, don't speak to that question.]
posted by matlock expressway at 6:01 PM on August 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


My school charges $15 to get phones back. I give one free pass if they cough up the phone when busted. I put it in my pocket and give back at the end of class. If they do it again then the phone goes to the office. It has to hurt or the rule has no teeth.
posted by leetheflea at 6:07 PM on August 22, 2011


I don't think you have a leg to stand on. Is there any reason your kid doesn't do what every kid at my high school did, which was leave the phone in their locker? And I went to high school with a hell of a lot of self-absorbed kids. Surely if you trust this kid with a younger sibling, you should be able to expect them to keep their phone on silent.

I went to my high school's website just now. I am shocked to learn that as of last year, one is allowed to use a cell phone in the cafeteria during lunch. There is no policy for what happens if it's in sight (never mind ringing) somewhere else--my guess is the teacher can take it and give it back when they see fit.

Aside from my bafflement as to why you're convinced your kid needs to have their phone out or even on in class, you'd have to come up with an argument why cell phones are in a category separate from whatever else the school might confiscate. (I see my old school bans skateboards. And card playing, as Illinois is not cool with card games in schools.) And, well, there isn't one that I can see. (Well, playing cards have little utility outside entertainment, but a student might need the added speed of a skateboard to get somewhere after school.)
posted by hoyland at 6:19 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


My school's policy is first offense they need a parent to pick it up after school, second offense it goes in the school's safe until June.

Our cell phone related problems are almost non existent. Ironically, we got rid of cellphones because of a safety issue.
posted by JimmyJames at 6:23 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


School board member here. Everyone who's telling you to go in and demand the return of your personal property is giving you terrible advice. This is going to get you branded a problem parent. Many perfectly legal items are contraband on school grounds, and courts are pretty deferential about allowing schools to determine what constitutes contraband. At least in my jurisdiction, no court has yet overturned a cell phone confiscation policy or any similar policy.

Moreover, more and more districts make suspension the punishment for breaking cell phone rules, which also answers one of your final questions. If you tell the school you'll take an alternative punishment to get the phone back, you may be inviting them to suspend your child, which in most places results in zeros for all the work missed during the suspension.

Attempting to balance competing safety concerns is why so many districts have confiscation-if-used policies. It allows students to have their phones if needed for family contact or in case of a school emergency, but by preventing its use in the school they prevent not just cheating but gang violence and bullying, which is often coordinated by cell phone. While your story about the near-campus slayings is hair-raising, if you speak with the police or security officers assigned to your school, they can probably tell you equally hair-raising stories about violence coordinated by cell phone. There's a real push-pull in schools, especially high schools, about how much cell phones contribute to safety and how much they contribute to violence.

On your larger question of how to convince the Board to change the policy (as it is probably a board policy, not a school policy): The point of these policies IS to make life difficult for parents. Cell policies that only punish students have little effect. The school is not going to be interested in making your life easier; they WANT it to be inconvenient for you. Once it inconveniences parents, student behavior starts changing. The other problem you will run into is that most teachers are HUGELY in favor of these policies, and if you try for petitions or competing contingents at a school board meeting, the teachers (especially if unionized) will out-compete you every time. (There will also be a cranky old coot contingent who will show up to bitch about how cell phones are ruining America.) Our teachers have been agitating to have us increase the cell phone penalties, not decrease them.

"If I were you - I would go to the school. Speak to the guidance counsel, the dean of discipline, and the principal. Say to all of them: my child has family responsibilities. You may NOT keep my child's phone. My child will serve whatever alternate punishment (plus, I will personal kill my child at home). But, if you take my child's phone, and I have a family emergency, and someone in my family is hurt by the fact that you took the phone, then I will be contacting my lawyer."

This is when the school would cease all cordial conversation and problem solving with you and invite you to call ITS lawyer, who would explain to your lawyer that (at least in my jurisdiction), you have absolutely no case. We hear this sort of threat ("you did X, I'm calling my lawyer!") LITERALLY ten times a day and it has absolutely no effect. It's an empty threat 99% of the time; the parent usually doesn't know much about school law (even lawyer parents usually don't), and our lawyers do nothing but. Now, if your child has been sexting on school grounds, we're going to get interested and make lots of frantic calls to lawyers, but if your child has had their cell confiscated and you're threatening legal action? Feel free to threaten; 99 in 100 parents won't bother to file (99 in 100 lawyers won't take the case in my jurisdiction); and feel free to file, it's not going to actually affect us. You would not BELIEVE how many empty threats we receive, or how many baseless, quickly dismissed lawsuits are filed against us. We're a hell of a lot more likely to have legal liability from students using their phones on school grounds to bully each other on Facebook than we are for confiscating a cell. I'm not try to be flippant about the policy or your complaints with it; I'm trying to illustrate why this is a useless route to take. Not only does a threat NOT demonstrate your seriousness (instead, it demonstrates a total lack of seriousness), but if you're belligerent about it you're going to get administrators' backs up and they're going to become adversarial with you rather than cooperative.

Now, I'm not particularly a fan of cell confiscation policies (although they're better than suspensions). If you wanted to sway my Board, the best way to do that would be through STUDENT action who presented cogent arguments about safety and responsibility, and who came up with their own scheme of appropriate punishments for cell phone use in schools. We might agree to pilot a program suggested by the students for a semester or a year, and if it went well and the students DID abide by the rules they suggested, to adopt it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:43 PM on August 22, 2011 [38 favorites]


hoyland, I never said my kid needed her phone out or on in class. In fact, I stated that cell phones should not be used in school. All I am trying to do is get her phone back if it is taken so that my younger child isn't stranded somewhere and she can be in contact with others who might need her.

And it's not the same as a skateboard or a deck of cards because it's not (not in my family, anyway) a toy. She uses it to take care of an elderly woman in the neighborhood who calls her for help after school, to make sure her younger sibling gets home okay and/or find out that she needs to work. My point is that she uses it for after school obligations. It's a tool.
posted by Ink-stained wretch at 6:46 PM on August 22, 2011


In the school district I attended, they've been fining students $15 for the past 4 years. The first two years got them $100,948 -- it's a large school district, but I think that speaks to the very real problem teachers are facing with cell phones in the classroom. That divides out to 3364 infractions per year. The article mentions a mother who thinks the fines are too much. Each of her children have earned multiple fines, and she texts with them throughout the day. She pays their fines in pennies. So, that's one way to protest, although I wonder what her children are learning from her.

There has been a lawsuit (pdf). An eighth-grader took a photo of herself naked in the bathroom, and showed her friends before sending it off to a boy who had requested the photo. A teacher took the phone, and when the girl denied that she had been using it, the teacher looked at her last messages sent. The girl was sent to the alternate-education program, and her parents sued. They lost. As far as I can tell, they mostly lost because the school has a policy that not only allows them to take the phone, but also look through the messages under certain circumstances.
posted by Houstonian at 6:46 PM on August 22, 2011


Eyebrows McGee: "courts are pretty deferential about allowing schools to determine what constitutes contraband."

Indeed. Courts have generally found schools to be acting within their ambit in creating cell phone confiscation policies. Examples include Arkansas and New York. (Both of those cases went up on appeal and lower court rulings finding for the schools were upheld.) So I don't think the "you're confiscating my personal property" line of arguments is going to work.

If your daughter is only using her phone after school, could she possibly leave it at home and retrieve it there after school is over?
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 6:50 PM on August 22, 2011


And it's not the same as a skateboard or a deck of cards because it's not (not in my family, anyway) a toy.

That's the point of the policy. A lot of kids use it as a toy. Also consider that all of our students have laptops, and to get around our proxy, they attach to their cell phone's wi-fi network to reach unwanted websites.

Regardless, working in a school IT, I find alternative suggestions to get the most pull. "Perhaps instead of taking away the cell phone, send him to detention for a week."
posted by jmd82 at 7:00 PM on August 22, 2011


Thanks, Eyebrows McGee, for your thoughtful input. And Conrad Cornelius and jmd82, too!

I certainly don't want to alienate anyone at school. I'm just trying to get all of our safety and support systems in place as the year starts.

It seems to me that part of the issue I am seeing here (people thinking I want for myself or her special treatment, or that I am indulgent or I think phones in class is adorable and harmless) is the same I would come up against in an outreach to the administration. There are many, many ways to think of phones - from mini computers to cameras to tools for flash mob/wilding, etc., and there are teens who are more responsible than others. And asking that the rules change (for everyone) based on the needs of one really responsible kid probably won't sway people. I suspect we'll figure something else out. But I do find it crazy to keep phones after hours when so many kids today work and babysit and use them for responsible reasons. And what if they are stolen from the school, or damaged? Will the school replace them? The policy seems antiquated to me (the overnight part).

And just for the record, she only had her phone taken once in five years, when she thought she turned off the ringer the night before - and was mistaken.

She's an awesome kid.
posted by Ink-stained wretch at 7:09 PM on August 22, 2011


And just for the record, she only had her phone taken once in five years, when she thought she turned off the ringer the night before - and was mistaken.

If so, then may I gently suggest that you're swatting a fly with a sledgehammer? Maybe come up with an alternate phone confiscation plan that involves (a) a Google Voice account so she can check missed calls/voicemail in the school's computer lap, and (b) emergency taxi money since it seems like you're concerned about your kid walking to/from school.
posted by lalex at 7:17 PM on August 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


The school has no right to hold any private property after the school day. Period. You won't be able to change this absurd policy universally, though. You need to go in person and make it perfectly clear what is to happen if the phone rings in class. It's not a negotiation. A lot of school administrators think they're little gods, so you have to be absolutely firm. As evidenced by this thread, some school people will try to push you around (apparently you're supposed to be afraid of being a "problem parent".) Don't let them.
posted by spaltavian at 7:43 PM on August 22, 2011


"There are many, many ways to think of phones - from mini computers to cameras to tools for flash mob/wilding, etc., and there are teens who are more responsible than others. "

This is where a suggestion coming from the teens themselves might carry more weight. If THEY came up with a scheme where responsible students had more phone rights and irresponsible students had less rights, we'd be pretty interested in that, because policies with high student buy-in tend to require far less enforcement. (Also because we're pretty interested in our students showing civic engagement -- we love it when they peacefully protest -- and creating a workable "rule of law" is huge, requiring a lot of thought and care and balancing of interests and personal disinterest and so on. I'd be so proud of them.)

I can't off the top of my head imagine what such a policy might look like, but policies like open lunch, for example, are not uncommon, where students who maintain a certain GPA and get in no trouble are allowed to leave campus for lunch, with the privilege revoked for low grades or any disciplinary infractions. Students, being much closer to the situation and both the problems of cell phones in school and the helpful uses of them, could probably come up with some ideas. Some of them wouldn't fly because we have to abide by various laws in setting policies, but I'm sure they'd come up with some good ideas that we could work with.

What does your daughter think would be a fair system that allows appropriate phone use while discouraging inappropriate use, and creates both incentives and disincentives? This may be her letter to write. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:01 PM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


There's a huge pile-on here in the wrong direction. It sounds like your school is really over-reaching into your personal life. Your kid has to play by the school's rules when she's in school, I don't dispute that. But to extend the school rules once she leaves for the day is unacceptable.

And a note to the numerous posters here bragging about how we never used to have cell phones in high school (I didn't either), this isn't about bratty teenagers or bad parenting; it's simply about how far outside school walls a family should be beholden to school rules.
posted by reeddavid at 8:38 PM on August 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


A rule without sanctions is no rule at all. Schools are bedevilled by kids using phones in class and wasting the teacher's time and affecting the education of others and this seems a very mild way of tackling it. As your child isn't likely to break this rule, I don't see the point of your letter. When I taught my policy was that any phone I saw in class, being used or not, got thrown out of the third floor window. I never had to do this, but I meant what I said. The only feedback I got from the students was thanks that their time wasn't being wasted in my lessons by other people messing about with the damn things when they were trying to learn. If you write a letter complaining about this what makes you think the rule will be changed to suit you? You're likely to receive a letter back saying that's the school rule and if you don't like it, find another school.
posted by joannemullen at 8:59 PM on August 22, 2011


@reeddavid - whether or not you believe the school is "reaching into your personal life" it is actually legal for schools to confiscate ANYTHING from a student - we can search their stuff, locker and person. Students don't have the same constitutional rights as adults. Now that's a whole 'nother debate - as Eyebrows McGee rightly discusses above.

And until you've been a teacher in a class where students are constantly asking you to repeat things that they didn't hear because they were texting, please don't pile on the teachers on this thread supporting the cell phone policy. Another factor in this debate is that students are often coordinating fights via text - we had three fights last year that included off-campus family members showing up on campus to "beat someone's ass" because their kid asked them to.

@Ink-stained wretch - prevention, prevention, prevention. I applaud your daughter for being almost always responsible with her phone, and FWIW, I would never take a phone from a student who had it go off by accident. I hope you never have to face this issue again. But it's not a hill I would die on. Good luck.
posted by guster4lovers at 9:10 PM on August 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Kids survived centuries without cell phones to keep them connected to their parents 24/7. They filed post-school flight plans and checked in with trusted friends and adults. If your kid has lost her phone once in five years for an accidental ring, what is it you are truly afraid of?

Unless your daughter attends a private school, her teachers and administrators are probably losing sleep about kids whose parents can't afford 3 meals a day or school supplies. If your daughter needs an emergency beacon, give her a pre-paid phone which must stay off except for emergencies and cannot be used for goofing off. If she gives the number out to her friends for casual use and leaves her ringer on, don't blame her teachers. Ground her and tell her to buy her own phone if she MUST have a phone at school.
posted by SakuraK at 11:10 PM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


If your child gets their phone confiscated for 24 hours, this does not mean they are suddenly stranded in the middle of a desert, alone, with zero means of communicating with anyone. The school office has a phone. There are payphones. She could borrow a friends phone for a few minutes to call and check on her sister, the elderly neighbor, check her work schedule, etc. Is it convenient? No. That's the point. The inconvenience of having to resort to this may make her think twice about using her phone in class again. Otherwise, there's no point. Many many students before cell phones were in common use had after school responsibilities and got along just fine without a cell phone, myself included. I had a job and a younger sibling to look after, and I had to arrange for transportation home from various after school activities, all of which I did just fine without a cell phone. It's not like they're confiscating the phone forever. It's 24 hours. It's supposed to be inconvenient for both her and you, but it really doesn't cause actual hardship, just inconvenience.
posted by katyggls at 5:15 AM on August 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee, my kid got a crappy education, and I wish, I really wish, I'd lawyered up. You may be pretty sanguine about it, but lawyering up costs schools money, and most of them can't afford it. Problem parent? The only way I got the school to address any of my kid's special needs, which they are legally obligated to address, was to become a problem parent. Wish I'd done it way sooner, and done a hell of a lot more of it.

Schools are for educating. My kid's school didn't cooperate very well with parents, and I think that is a genuine detriment to the child's education. There are a lot of parents here saying that they need their student to have a cell phone. There are a lot of educators saying cell phones are disruptive. Schools have lots of ways to address problems, including detention, parental notification. Are you all really not creative or cooperative enough to find a meeting ground?

And, for crying out loud, why don't most cell phones have the ability to schedule turning sound on & off?
posted by theora55 at 6:28 AM on August 23, 2011


"Eyebrows McGee, my kid got a crappy education, and I wish, I really wish, I'd lawyered up. You may be pretty sanguine about it, but lawyering up costs schools money, and most of them can't afford it. Problem parent? The only way I got the school to address any of my kid's special needs, which they are legally obligated to address, was to become a problem parent. Wish I'd done it way sooner, and done a hell of a lot more of it. "

Special needs parents pushing for their child's needs to be met are not problem parents, and my district doesn't treat them as such. Problem parents are parents of students who have broken rules who come in, guns blazing, insisting their child did nothing wrong and they're going to sue the district for, oh, their kid getting caught having sex in a locker room by six teachers and 24 other students. Or their kid DRIVING to school so drunk they couldn't stand up and running into a parking pylon and how DARE the school call the police. (School started yesterday. I personally had three people threaten me with lawsuits over their kid's school bus stop. Before they even bothered to call transportation or the central office or their kid's school, or even me to say "hey, my bus stop is bad." They just went right to threats of lawsuits. In one case -- I am not kidding -- it was a 12 year old, no special needs, who is not allowed to walk to the end of the block that is still in sight of the parent's front window. LAWSUIT, she swears, unless the kid is picked up at the end of the driveway.)

I think I pretty comprehensively discussed the pros and cons of cell phones and the various policies and policy justifications. I'm not saying "don't complain." I'm saying "Don't race in demanding your property back and threatening lawsuits because the school's done something illegal" when it's clearly not illegal. Coming in antagonistic and making threats is unlikely to lead to the creative, cooperative problem solving you're seeking. (One can even come in with a lawyer without being threatening about it. Plenty of our special needs parents brings lawyers to meetings and it's still cooperative.)

The place I wish most parents would start, honestly, is reading the policy and asking a principal, administrator, or school board member what the justification for the policy is, and listening to the answer. Most of our policies don't spring full-formed from nowhere. (Our district, in fact, has a committee comprised of parents, teachers, students, administrators, and board members who review and make recommendations for policies relating to students.) Once parents understand what underlies the policy, they can make more focused, implementable suggestions to solve problems in the policy, as every policy has unintended consequences and generally we'd like to solve those if we can.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:05 AM on August 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


I subbed in a district that did this, except they kept the phone for a week. And let me tell you, however bad it is for the teachers it's probably worse for the subs since the kids know they won't be back.

First year I'd take phones and just bring them to the office with a small note with the phone with the student's name and a referral. Two referrals for people who wouldn't just hand over the phone. Most of the time it was Hell.

The next year the school decided that getting a referral and keeping the phone was at least an option for subs. Which I understand, you've got this adult that you've never seen before taking your phone. That's not always cool. At least you know you'll see the regular teacher every day.

Things went so much easier the second year. It was a simple question when the kids got caught. "Do you want to give me the phone or do you want the referral?" It actually brought the penalty down for kids who willingly gave up the phone.

The office staff never had a problem with letting kids look up a number and using a regular phone.

Kids cheat on the phones. They bully. They do all kinds of stuff. There's no reason to have a phone in class.

They can leave it in their locker. They can leave it with a teacher they trust. They can ask teachers to give them a pass if the phone just rings and they want to turn it off.

I think that's where you should attack the policy. People forget to turn off phones all the time. Encourage them to get a "Turn off your phones" message in the morning announcements or to let a kid turn off the phone if it goes off.

Side note: I once had a class where a phone started ringing after I'd already taken a phone or two. Nobody went to turn it off since they were in groups and backpacks were thrown in a pile. It was annoying as Hell to have to hear the ring and the second time it went off I had to go over to the group and tell them that I knew it was one of their phones and if someone didn't turn it off I'd leave a note for the teacher that one of them had a phone and refused to make it stop ringing if they didn't take advantage of my free pass to turn the thing off.
posted by theichibun at 10:48 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


The school office has a phone. There are payphones.

Not to beat on this, but the schools where I've taught have pulled all of the pay phones and are really strict about not letting students use the office phones. Those in extra-curriculars (band, football) could usually use their respective office phones, but the main office was generally shut off.

That being said, I agree with the folks here that you're within your right to ask why the 24-hour waiting period and discuss whether or not there could be a change to the policy with administrators. You might be able to go in, guns blazing, and get the phone back once or twice, but I think long term change might be your best bet. I know some schools (like Eyebrows McGee's) where policy is made through thoughtful decisions. I know some schools where policy is reactionary and made by fiat. You have to get a feel for which type you're heading in to.

Not to derail too far, but this is just an outgrowth of one of the main problems I see in education - everyone thinks the other party is out to fuck them over. Stupid policies punish parents. Evil, lawsuit happy parents punish teachers. Everyone is so paranoid and groping for whatever little bit of land they can. I think if we just approach this wikipedia-style and assume good faith in actions, maybe we can get away from some of this.
posted by SNWidget at 4:34 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


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