High school students get their cell phones confiscated by their teachers or school administration constantly. They often have no self-control when it comes to electronic devices. Texting, instant messaging, and snap-chatting are rampant … even when they should be paying attention to the teacher. At my site, we have a policy in place that allows teachers to confiscate phones which are out and being used without permission and bring them down to our office for safe-keeping until the parent/guardian picks it up. The exceptions to this policy are Bring Your Own Device activities which we fully encourage and support. In brief, if a student refuses to hand it over to the teacher, they are referred to the office for insubordination. The majority of the time the student will hand over the phone to me because they do not want a further disciplinary consequence such as suspension. For teenagers, it is often the principle of the thing: I don’t want to be embarrassed in front of the class, so I will refuse to hand it over to the teacher (and sometimes the dean) to save face with my peers. It truly is a vicious circle. Sometimes the problem is that the students do not believe that it is wrong to text during school time. “Our teachers do it” is a common explanation.
But wait, there is more. An alarming number of students tell me that their parents are the ones who are texting them during instructional time. The skeptic in me used to tell students not to blame it on someone else, especially their parents, but the proof is in the showing. Today I had a student referred to the office because he was texting in class (with his father) and refused to hand over the phone to his teacher. When he arrived in my office, he was on the verge of tears and barely uttered to me to read the text. I wish I had written it out verbatim to share with you because I am still mad as hell over it. However, it was nearly three scrolled pages long and so inappropriate that I stopped what I was doing to hug the student who by the time I finished reading it was sobbing uncontrollably on my desk.
In brief, the father texted his son to report to him that he was divorcing his female dog of a mother and that he had the choice to stay with him or go with his mom. Of course, there was much colorful text about her ability to parent anyone. Seriously? Who the hell does that to their child via text? At a minimum, he could have said, “Come right home after school. I have something to discuss with you.” Better yet, do not text your child during instructional time. And therein lies the problem educators face with students almost daily. They emulate their parents’ behaviors — good, bad, or indifferent.
On an end note, I attempted to contact the father after school on his cell phone. It went straight to voice mail. Trust me, I left him a strongly worded message. I expect him to return my phone call tomorrow. I have my own lesson to deliver.