This fall, Abilene, TX, students caught using their mobile phones at school will have their cellies confiscated and have to pay $15 to get them back. Well, that's not so bad, right? It's like a little slap on the wrist most kids would probably ignore -- after all, what's $15 these days?
Well, if you're a school bean-counter, it can add up to a lot.
Money for the coffers?
At the Klein Independent School District, located across the state from Abilene, penalties for two years' worth of errant cell phone use have amounted to $100,948. That's a lot of infractions -- and a lot of cabbage.
These and other individual Texas districts have been empowered to "take and fine" by state regulations that stem from similar widespread problems with student pager use in the 90s. (Geez, remember PAGERS?) Abilene is only the latest to do battle against almighty mobile devices.
You'd think financial gains from these fines would be a hefty incentive. With school budgets for arts or athletic programs routinely being slashed these days, this method of fundraising could bring in some much-needed funding. But, says the Abilene school district, it's not about raising money. The district asserts that they're instituting this policy to curb distracting and unwanted behavior.
On a first offense, Abilene students may pay the fine to liberate their phones, but repeat offenders have to ask a parent to come in and pay. (What's interesting here is that, at least for a few teens I know, parental over-communication can account for a decent chunk of texts and calls. Could the fine help curb THEIR behavior? Well, that would actually be kind of cool.)
Embracing the enemy
Sometimes I wonder if schools should be focusing so much on discouraging cell phones. A while back, I heard about a teacher who -- unlike others in the field -- intentionally incorporated them in his classroom.
He posed questions out loud, then encouraged answers via text message. It was a small change to the status quo, but it was enough to engage students using a technology they knew and loved. Some schools and universities post syllabi and homework assignments online, so that smartphone and computer-equipped pupils had paperless options for tracking assignments.
That's not to say there shouldn't be limits or rules regarding phones. ("Sexting," for example, definitely shouldn't be tolerated at school or anywhere.) But instead of trying to stem the tide of mobile technology, I hope educators figure out how to get creative and work with it.
In the end, is resistance futile?
Truth is, when it comes to cell phone use on campus, it doesn't matter how tough or rigid the rules get. For as long as students have phones (and given how parents like having a hotline to their kids, that will probably be a long time), they will likely always be used at school -- illicitly or not.
I definitely believe this. Clearly, some school districts don't. But what do you think? Is $15 enough to curb cell phone usage during school hours? Or are administrators engaging a battle they can't win? And should they embrace phones as a permanent medium of communication and education? Sound off below.
[via ABC News]