The Cell Phone Policy . . .

Alright, so its been a while (too long, in fact) since I’ve been active in the forums, but I was hoping for some input on a topic which has been long agitating me. I also wish to preface this question with a formal statement that I am in no way attempting to undermine or subvert the authorities of my school or any other, only that I wish for enlightenment in regard to the issue.
At my high school, there is a strict cell phone policy (which doesn’t affect me much because I keep my phone off and in a locker during the day). The policy states roughly that if a student’s phone merely rings during class, the phone is confiscated and his text messages, voicemail, images, etc may be subject to a thorough search. Now, my school is a private school, and I am aware that similar policies exist in other schools, both private and public. My question is, does this not seem a little unconstitutional? That is, the Fourth Amendment states,

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
This seems fairly straightforward to me, but I am obviously not a scholar of the law. It would seem logical that if a student was caught in the act of texting, for example, during a test, the authorities would have a reasonable basis for the searching of the phone.
Now I have discussed this topic rather informally with several faculty members (once again, entirely out of my own curiosity), but have received such responses as “this school is a private institution, and your signing of specific documents binds you to the rules of this institution,” and the like. If this is the case, then what precisely is a private institution?
Thank you for your comments and time.


First off, the Constitution is ‘merely’ a limitation on the State and not an enumeration of your rights.

Secondly, you have no constitutional rights on private property. Simply doesn’t apply.

Now, if you went to a public school they would be fully able to violate your constitutional rights (ignoring the fact that young people generally aren’t afforded full rights until they turn 18/21) but seeing as you don’t they can’t. And that’s also kind of iffy unless you went to a school that is directly controlled by the federal government like (maybe) Washington D.C. or a school on a military base.

It goes without saying that they can’t seize your property without permission but I’m sure the ‘specific documents’ gives it…Just like those signs saying ‘All vehicles entering this property are subject to search’ doesn’t violate your 4th Amendment rights and those yahoos at the exit of Fry’s Electronics can’t legally search your bags (since you didn’t give consent on/by entering) unless they witness you committing a crime.

It’s mainly so you don’t cheat on a test, and your not distracted by them while you should be working. In my school we have to sign a paper saying we agree to follow the rules, which says we are not allowed to have cell phones. I think it’s fair that they can take your phone away for the rest of the day, but I don’t think they should be able to search through you phone.
I don’t have to worry about this though, since I don’t have a phone.

Actually, they should be able to smash your phone to pieces if it goes off during class. It’s rude, obnoxious, distracting, and unnecessary. The last thing people need to hear when they are focusing is some 8-bit rendition of a top 20 song. Turn the damn phone off for a few hours in the day, I swear you will still live.

I approach this from the faculty side.

Private or not private, constitutional or not constitutional, fact is that it should be common sense
not to bring your running cellphone when you are tested / examed.

I personally find the quote to search a students cell phone rather silly because in all fairness
in case a student would use the cell during a test the student would breach a trust and I would
simply fail the student. period.

I would not even go sofar to the constitutional right because it is in the first place the student
who violates a rule here.

Some schools might prefer extra restrictions. Again I find those rather silly and cannot often
understand what the point is.

For example I am not sure if you remember the situation about that one kid who was supposed
to be busted doing something well wrong. But the person who caught him was seeing the student
through the students webcam in his laptop at home.

I fully agree here that school is stepping out over the border here harshly and come up
with the most silliest ideas how to disciplin a student.

The problem schools have is sadly that to be honest there is a large lack of respect towards
authority and that is something as it seems many parents do not teach there children.

A teacher is there to teach not to parent the kids.

So it is not such an easy story.

Actually, it is an easy story: Parents are self-righteous idiots who think their bratty kids can do no wrong and are totally delicate mentally and physically, and teachers have their hands tied, therefore the kids run everything. I’m not a teacher, but even from the outside I can see this happening. It’s a sad state, seeing as that these coddled kids will be paying my social security :wink: Man do I sound old! But what a change in the past 15 years even.

Thanks for the comments, and points well taken. Uncle Entity, I do understand what you are getting at, thank you. Also, cekuhnen: yes, I agree completely; simply fail the student and the problem is solved. (jay): agree as well; the last thing students need is an annoying cell phone going off in class; on a side note, is it not equally obnoxious when a student simply yells out an impertinent or germane comment in an attempt at humour?
Thanks again,


lol ok what is an germane comment???

I often can only shake my head about how much people make things complicated here
while I find the solutions often so simple. But in the current situation it can be quite
tricky to administer the rules.

As a reference as a professor you are also receiving student ratings of your teaching
performance. So what do you think professors do? Cater to the rating because the
institution would not back you up.

Sadly school is a lot about money. I went to a school were I paid 230 $ per year as a fee.
But if you did not like one thing the answer you got was that you could also send you kid
to a different school.

To be honest the majority of the issue with standards at schools is deeply rooted in the way
how a school is funded. I noticed to much how often administration caters to securing income.
And I as a fresh professor in design hate that like hell because in my soul this screams and
is against my teaching ethic.

But after one hefty clash also I needed to conform to what the institute wants.

I am pretty sure in case funding would be like in Europe - where in a software engineering
exam 75% can easily fail the test - the attitude towards education would be different and
people would demand more quality!

In my opinion this pay for education makes you more motivated is just a joke.
I on the flip side saw to many students exhausted from school and working.

If you study you should study and not spend too much time trying to be able to afford it.

Ravi teaches at a private highschool which is quite costly in Florida.
I can tell you stories you would not believe it.
Things like could he use a calculator because he is not good with his head and math.
Could we take the exam home and do it there.
He needed to curve heavily grades because the class when he started was at a average of a “C”.
It is his fault the students did poorly because he is foreign. Lol he is indian and speaks perfect English.

What somewhat is funny to hear as a story concerns me a lot. Because one can blame the school as much as they want. But how could parents not act in the best of their kids?

When I brought bad grades home it was not the teacher who was questioned but me first.

Now teaching at college level I am even more shocked to see how few only really are competitive.
I was scared when I was a student not to be competitive enough and thus not getting a job.

And for me that generation is not that far away - I just left undergraduate 2004.

it also depends on the instructor…
when i was teaching, we had strict policies regarding cellphones as well. but i personally didn’t like to treat my my class as a military base… if a phone rang, it was annoying but it wasn’t the end of the world and i didn’t feel good about failing a student just because of it… sure, if it rings every other class, i would talk to them, because it’s unfair to other students who get distracted…

i guess all i cared about was the material i was teaching… i got annoyed when a student didn’t pay attention or just didn’t respect the effort i’ve done to teach the subject the best way i can… cheating is also disrespectful, it’s like saying “i have no interest in whatever you spent your life learning, i’m just gonna cheat and pass this test”…

so it depends, some teachers care about abiding by the rules and some have prefer caring about other things…

$Deity forbid income should be directly proportional to performance and customer satisfaction.

Yeah, that would be just plain wrong…

One question though. Suppose the communication was a legitimate emergency either external to the school, or as so many times these days internal? Most cell phones that I have used have a vibrate only function (the stupid ringtones used really irritate me durning company meetings!)


you might have misread what I mentioned to say.
I am talking about the time during an exam.

If the phone just rings is one thing.
If the student uses the phone that is when it is getting a problem.
Because then the situation arises that the student has to proof that
it was a call for emergency.

In this case I can understand that the school not only confiscates
but also checks the phone.

We all know how much we as students tried to cheat.
Simple as that.

But again the solution can be quite simple.

There can always be an accident.
In that case I would call the school to get to the student because
I would expect that out of respect my kid would not have the cell
turned on in an exam.

I grew up that way and it was fine.

Uncle ok so what do you say?
I am sorry I am lost in translation here.

dom joly put it like this (skipped the rather pregnant intro)

get students to watch this, grow some stigma around it :slight_smile:

When I read this for the first time I thought it was merely a joke, when I read your other post I was no longer so sure. Is it a joke?

Because if a teacher would break my phone simply because someone feels the need to call me during class I would personally charge that teacher for a new phone, I don’t care if it’s “their right” to do so or not.

We live in a civilized community and it is only natural for people to respect others belongings. If the teacher have the right to smash my phone for ringing then I should have the right to smash their car to pieces for disturbing the peace of the people he/she drives by right?

If the law approved of such barbaric resorts I would drop out of school immediately. I have no reason to stay in a school where the teachers behave more immaturely than the students do (because let’s face it, destroying the belongings of someone else because you don’t like it is childish and just plain retarded)

I’m 18 years old, in my last months of school. Being 18 I also have business outside of school and I find school very restrictive on my life, it took me three weeks to bank a cheque once simply because I leave for school before the bank opens and travel home when the bank closes. Another example is I was corresponding to a publisher about a damaged CD for my textbook (I like to use the digital copies, saves me lugging textbooks home). While only a few emails where needed to be sent to resolve the issue, it took a fair amount of time as I could only send email in outside office hours.

Something that comes to my mind at the moment is once in class I was talking to a friend, the teacher asks if it was school related, which it wasn’t so he tells me to perhaps keep it out of school. I think in these days there is an overlap between school life and non-school life, the teachers most likely see this as homework and not so much non-school life entering school.

For these reasons I feel that a no phone policy is to be quite frustrating, I personally do not follow these rules (and neither does anyone else at my school). Sure I’m for phone etiquette (turning phone onto silent/vibrate in class), but confiscating a phone for checking the time? Oh no, thats just devastating, that kid should have his phone taken off him and searched.

Andrew how do you think people managed life before email where there was only paper mail and telephone?

For those who are students here I would promote to teach one week and give lectures.
I promise you that very quickly you will notice how disruptive even a friend to friend talk will be.

It is all about etiquette even when it is just a small call from home or a chat with a friend.
If one can do it more will do it.

Irrelevant as it is, the people who grew up with paper mail managed because that is what society demanded at the time. The point I was trying to make was the overlap of school life and non-school life, especially near the end of schooling.

Once again, I am for etiquette. It would make sense to have a phone etiquette policy rather than a blanket ban on phones.

It is not irrelevant Andrew. Society demands nothing - it is one alone ability to cope with pressure.

What do you tell your employer when you get a phone call? You pick it up while working but
then get upset when you get fired for checking your private email???

I am very sure the reason why the might have such drastic requirements is because just asking
the students to be polite must not have worked well for them.

It has nothing to do with the caller, it’s that you “simply feel the need” to have a constant umbilical cord of communication and can’t turn the phone off for an 8 hour period in your day. Yes, smash it, please. I guarantee you will never hear another phone ring in class again.

I know teachers who have to deal with all this cell phone/ipod/whatever gadget BS; yet due to budget cuts they have to perform well and have good results from students. How do they perform well when kids attention is always diverted to their gadgets? And what good is it doing to the students? Cell phones, and I will sound like Luddite here, but cell phones are the harbingers of rudeness in most social situations.

as I say

let them teach on their own and their opinion will change quickly.