To Rigidly Uphold the Law


Schools May Muzzle Cellphone Use by Students

The secret of education is respecting the pupil.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

School Board Hopes Proposal Will Put Some Limits on Cellphone Use

by Katie Pesznecker

Some Anchorage principals and teachers have shown cool receptions to students' cellphone use, even threatening to confiscate the devices on sight.  At other schools, cells and other electronic devices have hardly caused a blip on the radar.  That's about to change.  New rules before the Anchorage School Board would level the digital playing field for students: kids could use phones before and after school and during lunch.  Use of the gabby gadgets would be otherwise banned - which means no dialing a pal while walking from biology to art class.  Text messaging during class and other blackout periods would be banned too.

For some kids, the new policy would upgrade in-school cell privileges.  For others, like 17-year-old Kendra Doshier, it would be a step down.  Doshier goes to South High, and says students there can basically use cellphones throughout the day and whenever they want "until a teacher tells them not to."  And most teachers don't seem to care, as long as the phones don't get in the way of class, Doshier said Tuesday.

For teenagers these days, cellphone use is constant.  "Texting" friends is the equivalent of the now-pass√© note-passing.  An estimated 61% of 12- to 19-year-olds carry cells, up from 25% in the year 2000, according to Teenage Research Unlimited.  Doshier says she uses her phone throughout the day to ease boredom, make weekend plans or touch base with her parents.  "For texting, calling, I probably use my phone 10, 15, 20 times a school day," Doshier said.

As more and more students bring cellphones to school, it's largely fallen on Anchorage principals to evolve the rules.  With devices like camera phones and Internet-able cells becoming more common, it's time for the district to have a more modern digital policy on the books, said Tim Steele, Anchorage School Board president.  "Electronic devices are, if anything, going to increase, not decrease," Steele said.  "They're not going away.  So we needed something."  Steele said the issue isn't students carrying phones, and the School Board knows that many parents prefer to have their children a cellular signal away.  "It's a huge safety issue," Steele said.  "My daughter will go somewhere and I know I can call her and get ahold of her.  It gives you a lot of comfort."

The problem is, students don't just use cells to call their parents.  And the School Board felt there should be rules so text-messaging and chit-chatting don't disrupt the school day.

No Bullies

And then there's the matter of "cyberbullying" - basically students using cells and computers to harass or tease classmates with mean messages or insulting photographs.  "We just wanted to stop it," said Rhonda Gardner, an assistant superintendent.  "It is a growing problem and it's one we want to get ahead of."  Under the proposed policy, students could face punishment if they use their phone or a computer to bully another student if that act takes place on school grounds, at a school event, or if the harassment interferes with the school day.  It's brand-new to the district's policy book, Gardner said.  So is the policy on cellphone use.  "We just wanted to provide clarity both for our students and staff what the expectations were," Gardner said.  "And we wanted to provide some consistency."

The new policy would mean more relaxed cellphone rules at East High, said Aurora Gargagliano, who will be a junior there this fall.  "Last year you weren't allowed to use your phone during lunch," said Gargagliano, 16.  "You'd have to go by the exits and use the phones there."  Why the exits?  "Because then they thought you were waiting for a ride," Gargagliano said.  "If you were caught using them in the hallways they'd be confiscated, which really didn't make sense because most people call parents during lunch."  The new rules sound reasonable, she said.  "Otherwise people would be using phones during school, calling their friends with the cars to try to get out of school," Gargagliano said.

Blind Messaging

Doshier, the South student, said that whatever the rules are, she can't imagine her classmates dramatically changing their cell habits.  "And the way kids text-message these days, we could put the phone under our desks and type a message with our eyes closed," she said.  "They'll find ways to get around the rules."

The board unanimously gave the new rules conditional approval at a meeting this week.  Members will take a second and final vote at the board's 25 June meeting.  The new rules are the result of months of work, Steele said.  And the board committee that worked on the policy got input from students, principals, even lawyers.  "The policy does exactly what we need," Steele said.  "It's basically common sense."

Speak Out: Cellphone/Cyberbullying Rules

What's Okay?

bulletCarrying a cell on school grounds
bulletUsing cellphones before and after school
bulletUsing cell during lunch

What's not OK?

bulletUsing cellphones during class, or during time between classes
bulletUsing a phone to surf Internet sites that are otherwise blocked at school
bulletSending harassing e-mails or text messages
bulletTaking photos in a bathroom or locker room
bulletUsing a camera phone or other recording device to record information about tests or homework
bulletTaking and sharing unauthorised photographs of students or staff
bulletPosting mean remarks about a person on a website

Katie Pesznecker

Source: 13June 2007

One of the characteristics of maturity, it seems to me, is increasing the size of your awareness of your surroundings.  That is an issue totally missing here.  To depend on a cellphone for input closes you off from your immediate environment, whether you are driving, in class where you should be paying attention, in a meeting, at dinner, or cruising around.  You say very clearly to others: "I am with you only because I must be - I am not where I really want to be."

Parents see cellphones as one tiny way they can maintain some control over children who otherwise no longer seem to be paying attention to them - just get in Junior's cellphone line, and he'll pay attention to you, too, when it's your turn, Mom and Dad.

Despite rules, self-indulgent students - and, sadly, even professors - at the university from which I just graduated use cellphones during class.  The message is clear - the class is not the primary focus - this was obvious in the quality of both instruction and participation.  Yet few seem to care.

Rules which cannot be strictly enforced (as the students above make clear is the category these new rules fall into) are not the answer.  Welcome to the new reality.  Implants are next and, while these might be temporarily locally blocked, they cannot be controlled.  The control that's missing here is self-control.  And that is a parenting issue, not a school issue - until it gets out of hand.  Some of these "rules" - such as not taking photos in a bathroom or locker room are illegal and should involve the police, not the school board.

Someone is losing the plot...

Pagers and Cellular Phones on School Property

Policies restricting student possession of pagers and cellular phones on school property were first enacted by state legislatures in the late 1980s and early 1990s in response to concerns that students were carrying such devices to participate in gang activity or drug sales, as well as concerns that these devices served as a distraction in the classroom setting.  However, in response to the use of cellular phones to contact family members during the events at Columbine High School in April 1999, during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and in other emergency situations, most state education policies have been revised, revoking the state-wide restrictions on use of such devices and permitting local boards to adopt policies limiting or prohibiting student possession of pagers and cellular phones on school property.  (In South Korea, polled students said they felt "anxious" without their cellphones.)

I could find a couple of schools where phones that went off in class were confiscated and the parents had to pay a $15 fine to retrieve them.  Most schools have bans on them being used during school hours, but kids say most such bans are ignored.  Phones going off in class usually get a "Turn that thing off!" response from teachers.  I know at the school I currently attend, phones going off in class are regular events and even teachers occasionally have their phones ring.  Phones have gone off during performances and quizzes (less so for tests and never that I heard during exams) and the bus is a cacophony of people screaming to be heard, letting me know intimate details about their lives in which I have a less-than-zero interest.

One of the reasons given for universally lifting cellphone bans is that "payphones are now obsolete."  Indeed, all but two of the myriad pay phones at our school have now been removed.  I had a cellphone 10 years ago when they were still somewhat novel and I felt very cool.  Now, I don't have one and don't want one.  We have Jornadas with aircards and internet connections and instant message each other in emergencies or just send email most of the time.  Most things can wait.  Now, of course, the big thing about cellphones are the people who use them while driving.  More and more states are (rightly) curbing this practice.  Mobile phones can send and read email, send and read text messages (and thus make high-tech cheat sheets), play music, take photos and video clips, function as calculators, play games, record voices, show movies, grow sunflowers - and no doubt more features I've overlooked.

I also read where 10% of phones are lost each year...

Mother's Call Gets Son in Hot Water

by Angelique Soenarie

Kevin Francois gave up his lunch break to talk to his mother, but it ended up costing him the rest of the school year.  Francois, a junior at Spencer High School in Columbus, was suspended for disorderly conduct Wednesday after he was told to give up his cellphone at lunch while talking to his mother who is deployed in Iraq, he said.  His mother, Sergeant 1st Class Monique Bates, left in January for a 1-year tour and serves with the 203rd Forward Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division.  "This is our first time separated like this," said Francois, 17, on Thursday.

Bates came to Fort Benning with her son from Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia.  She enrolled him at Spencer in August.  Since her deployment overseas, Francois, whose father was killed when he was 5 years old, lives with a guardian who has 5 children in Columbus.

The incident happened when Francois received a call from his mother at 12:30pm, which he said was his lunch break.  Francois said he went outside the school building to get a better reception when his mother called.  A teacher who saw Francois on his phone told him to get off the phone.  But he didn't.

According to the Muscogee County School District Board of Education's policy, students are allowed to have cellphones in school, but cannot use them during school hours.  "They are really allowed to have those cellphones so that after band or after chorus or after the debate and practices are over they have to coordinate with the parents," said Alfred Parham, assistant principal at Spencer.  "They're not supposed to use them for conversating back and forth during school because if they were allowed to do that, they could be text messaging each other for test questions."

Francois said he told the teacher, "This is my mom in Iraq.  I'm not about to hang up on my mom."  Francois said the teacher tried to take the phone, causing it to hang up.  The student said he then went with the teacher to the school's office where he surrendered his phone.  His mother called again at 12:37pm and left a message scolding her son about hanging up and telling him to answer the phone when she calls.

Parham said the teen's suspension was based on his reaction when he was asked to give up the cellphone and told about the school's cell phone policy.  "Kevin got defiant and disorderly with Mr Turner and another assistant principal," Parham said Thursday.  "He got defiant with me.  He refused to leave Mr Turner's office.  When a kid becomes out of control like that they can either be arrested or suspended for 10 days.  Now being that his mother is in Iraq, we're not trying to cause her any undue hardship; he was suspended for 10 days."  Wendall Turner is another assistant principal at Spencer.

Parham said the student used profanity when he was taken into the office.  He said he tried to work out something with the student.  But Francois said he was too frustrated he couldn't answer the phone when his mother called him the second time.  "I even asked Kevin, 'You know we can try to work something out to where if your mother wants to call you she can call you at the school,'" Parham said.  "So we've tried to work with Kevin and we're going to continue to try to work with Kevin and his mother and his relatives.  In the course of good order and discipline, we have to abide by our policy."

Francois admitted he was partially at fault for his behaviour but said he should have been allowed to talk to his mother.  "I was mad at the time, but I feel now maybe I should've went about it differently," he said.  "Maybe I should've just waited outside to pick up the phone.  But I don't I feel I should've changed any of my actions.  I feel I was right by not hanging up the phone."  For Francois, he said he gets to hear from his mother once a month, and phone calls vary depending on when she can use the phone in Iraq.  Francois said his mother calls as late as 1am to 3am and tries to catch him during hours he's awake.  He said the phone call Wednesday was the first time she called him while he was at school.

Francois, who said he's been struggling with his grades in school, wants to go back to school and finish the rest of his year.  He fears he may have pay for summer school because of his punishment.  "My grades had been low, but I was bringing them up.  My grades were coming back up.  On one of my report cards I had like a 'F' in one of my classes, but I brought it back up to a low 'C.'  This just brought me all the way down."

Source: Friday 6 May 2005 © Ledger-Enquirer and wire service sources, all rights reserved

The principal said students were not to use cellphones for "conversating"?  There's part of the problem right there - the principal should return to school himself.  Schools have lost the plot.  I would think this was a joke except, sadly, it isn't.  Why do parents stand for this?  Because they are too busy at work to get involved?  It's time we elevated the job of parent.  Mon, Dad - no one loves your children like you do.  NOT the school.  Not their teachers.  Help them out.  They need you.

Rubbery Weapons Stretch School's Patience

We need excellence in public education and if the teachers can't do it, we'll send in a couple of policemen.

- Frank Rizzo

by Elizabeth Dyer

Where do you stand on the rubber band issue? Are they useful doodads for holding things together, or missiles capable of shooting someone's eye out?

In schools around the world, kids are launching wadded paper missiles, which they call birdies, tweeters, zombie darts, microshooters, hornets and wasps.  Whatever they're called, they pack quite a sting.  Says a Cincinnati master prankster (8th-grader) who goes by Doctorworm32 at an online forum, the Prank Institute: "Got so bad teacher took away bands.  People would come into class with welts on their cheeks."

Young Middle Magnet School of Mathematics, Science & Technology in Tampa, perhaps stretched beyond its limit, has banned the band.  In a December newsletter, the Buffalo Bulletin, administrators warned parents and students.

"There have been recent incidences of students at our school using rubber bands as a method of projecting objects at other people.  The students refer to some of the projectile objects as "wasps.'  Occasionally, students are using their fingers to project the wasps.  These activities have resulted in injured students.

"Rubber bands are not permitted at school.  If students are in possession of rubber bands for any reason they will be subject to consequences that may include out of school suspension.  When rubber bands are required for classroom use, they will be provided and collected."

Source: St Petersburg Times 25 December 2004


by Jim Peacock

The first question that comes to mind is ... never mind.  That one can't be worded politely.  The second question is how in the world can a school justify suspension from school for possessing a rubber band?  It's a rubber band, not a drug, not a knife, not a gun.

Okay, assume for a moment that the wasp fights have reached a point where something actually does need to be done about them.  How about punishing the students who are using the rubber bands improperly?  Because the school has chosen to ignore the unwanted behaviour and take the idiot's road of banning the implement, the behaviour itself is not being addressed.

The problem is not rubber bands.  The problem is kids using them in a manner the school doesn't like.

The next news item from this school will quite likely be a banning of ball point pens as the students switch from wasps to spit balls.


Just Following Procedure

Scissors Get Girl in Legal Trouble, Arrested for Taking Scissors to School

If you bring a deadly weapon to Holme Elementary School they will call the police.  It's the procedure.  When the police arrive to arrest you they will handcuff you.  That's procedure too.  When the district identifies a pair of ordinary scissors as a deadly weapon and the perpetrator is a 10-year-old girl the procedure results in a fantastic miscarriage of justice.  A 10-year-old fourth-grade girl at Holme Elementary School in the Far Northeast was pulled out of class, handcuffed, and taken to the local police station in the back of a police wagon earlier this week after a pair of 8-inch scissors were found in her book bag, according to authorities and her angry mother.

School district and police officials said yesterday that they were following state law and procedures in dealing with students who have weapons on school property.  They say that those rules demand police be called and that procedures call for handcuffing suspects regardless of age or crime.  The arrest and trauma was complete before the school bothered to contact Porsche Brown's mother.  She was understandably upset.

"My daughter cried and cried," Jackson said yesterday.  "She had no idea what she did was wrong.  I think that was way too harsh.  I want something done to that principal and that teacher.  They didn't notify me. they called the police," Jackson said.

The school defended their actions saying that scissors are classified as a potentially dangerous weapon.  The police defended their actions saying that handcuffing suspects is always done without regard to individual circumstances.  None of them seem to realise just how badly their procedures have failed.  They don't grasp just how incredibly traumatic it is for a 10-year-old girl to be dragged out of class, handcuffed, and brought to a police station for the "crime" of possessing an item that the school itself supplies to students.  What's almost worse is that none of them see any reason why these procedures should be changed.

Porsche will be suspended for 5 days, and the district will then decide whether to expel her to a disciplinary school or allow her to return to Holme, he said.  City police, meanwhile, decided not to charge her with a crime because they determined that she had no intent to use the scissors as a weapon, said Inspector William Colarulo, a police spokesman.  In fact, police believe she had the scissors to unwrap a new CD, Colarulo said.

A 10-year-old girl handcuffed, arrested, suspended, possibly expelled.  Just following procedure.

Reported by Phil Kennard, Richard Emerson, Texas Teacher, Robert Ladden, Bumper, Mike the Marine and Jeanne Connor)

Update: Vallas apologises for decision to handcuff 10-year-old

A little publicity goes a long way.

Philadelphia public schools chief Paul Vallas and City Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson today apologised for the decision that lead to a 10-year-old girl who was caught with scissors in her book bag being handcuffed and taken to the local precinct in the back of a police wagon.  "I'm not going to demonise a 4th-grader who brings a scissors to school," Vallas said in a phone interview shortly after calling the child's mother, Rose Jackson, to apologise.

Johnson, who said he also had called Jackson to apologise, said his department will re-consider how it restrains young children for transport in future cases.  Porsche will be allowed to return to school after an abbreviated 2 day suspension.  The school will not pursue an expulsion.


Cutting Edge Punishment

An American pupil has been expelled from school for taking scissors to a sewing class.  Jacob Finklea, 12, had taken them to his school in Indiana to make a set of pillows, but was booted out under his school's zero tolerance policy.  Jacob said the teacher had told the pupils to put all their supplies on the table.  He said: "I put the scissors on the desk and she just freaked out."

Jacob's mother, Chrystal, said her son had hurt his hands while using a school set of scissors so she gave him a pair from home.  School chiefs across America have operated a zero tolerance policy since the 1999 Columbine High School killings.  A spokesman for Jacob's school in Pike Township told the website it "vigorously defended" the procedure.

Source: Tuesday 9 March 2004

The level of misunderstanding here is phenomenal - and I don't mean by Jacob's mother - who, apparently being motherly, tried to help her son out.  School authorities may have done Jacob a favour by expelling him if his mother can now somehow find a way to homeschool him.  My youngest child's first day of school was at the age of 14 - in university.  He is now 17 and a junior with a 4.0 average.  He enjoys school and isn't burnt out like most of his classmates.  And I let him use scissors whenever he likes.  School authorities should make a more concerted attempt to understand why kids go berserk at school.  They haven't yet achieved that level of useful understanding.

See also:

bulletStudent Essays Undergo Different Type of Scrutiny - After a 2-to-3 year decline, reports of censorship in K-12 schools are back up since May, according to the Urbana, Illinois-based National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).  "Since Columbine, people are hypersensitive to every hint of violence in student writing," says Charles Suhor, an NCTE field representative who tracks censorship.
bulletFive Years' Jail for School Game Foul - Distraught, Limon appeared on television in an orange prison outfit yesterday saying it had been wrong for him to elbow another player in the face and he believed he "should be punished" - but not so severely.

Not all incidents are clear-cut...

Weapon: A Pencil Sharpener Blade

Pencil sharpeners have been banned from a primary school after a pupil dismantled one and used the blade to slash another child's neck.  The victim was attacked in the playground at Waterloo Primary School in Ashton under Lyne.  He was taken to Tameside Hospital where he had butterfly stitches placed on the wound.  The attacker was suspended for two days and is now back in school.  Police, who were notified two days later, have spoken to the young attacker and his parents.

Head teacher David Willis has now banned all pencil sharpeners.

But the decision to allow the boy to return to school has angered parents.  Some have signed a petition calling on the school to permanently expel the youngster.  One parent, who did not wish to be named, said: "Are our children safe when we send them through those gates every morning?  The lad purposely took the blade out of the sharpener.  In my eyes that is a pre-meditated attack.  My children know the difference between right and wrong.  To suspend that boy for just two days is no punishment at all."

Tracy Buckley, the school's head of governors, has written to all parents, saying the school understood the gravity of the incident and acted accordingly.  The letter states: "The school, like every other school, has a duty to promote `inclusion' of all pupils.  The emphasis of the (DfES) guidance is that a permanent exclusion is discouraged and to be considered as a last resort in very extreme circumstances.  A fixed period exclusion was entirely appropriate for the circumstances."  A spokeswoman for Tameside council said it supported the action taken by the school, which she said was appropriate.  "The school took the incident very seriously and the governors, headteacher and staff are committed to providing a safe and secure environment for all pupils."

The attack is highlighted just over a week after 15-year-old David Sandham died following an altercation at Broadoak High School in Partington, Trafford.  Yesterday, the Manchester Evening News reported how teachers at Priestnall High School in Stockport started acting as bodyguards, patrolling streets round their school, following attacks on 5 pupils.


So they banned pencil sharpeners?  Now all kids are treated as if they are in a mental hospital or under suicide watch in jail just because of the actions of one kid?  Parents: consider homeschooling your children.  Just consider it.

Island 4th Grader Suspended for Using Broken Pencil Sharpener

by Daniel Brownstein

A 10-year-old Hilton Head Island boy has been suspended from school for having something most students carry in their supply boxes: a pencil sharpener.  The problem was his sharpener had broken, but he decided to use it anyway.  A teacher at Hilton Head Island International Baccalaureate Elementary School noticed the boy had what appeared to be a small razor blade during class on Tuesday, according to a Beaufort County sheriff's report.  It was obvious that the blade was the metal insert commonly found in a child's small, plastic pencil sharpener, the deputy noted.

The boy - a 4th-grader described as a well-behaved and good student - cried during the meeting with his mom, the deputy and the school's assistant principal.  He had no criminal intent in having the blade at school, the sheriff's report stated, but was suspended for at least two days and could face further disciplinary action.  District spokesman Randy Wall said school administrators are stuck in the precarious position between the district's zero tolerance policy against having weapons at school and common sense.  "We're always going to do something to make sure the child understands the seriousness of having something that could potentially harm another student, but we're going to be reasonable," he said.

Source: 11 September 2008

More madness on the following page...

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