Students Hit With $15 Fine For Using Cell Phones in School

"Between the first bell and the last bell, students should not be using their cell phones and that includes lunch," said Steve Stanford, assistant director of communications for the district.

If caught, the phone is confiscated and parents have to pay a $15 "administrative fee."

Stanford said he was unable to say how much money the 58,000-student district had collected since the rule went into effect. The money is used to help offset the cost of summer school.

Carolyn Counce, director of policy service at Texas Association of School Boards, said that it is up to each of the state's 1,000 different districts to set its own policy. But they all have to live within the guidelines of a state law -- first passed in 1995 regarding pagers -- that allows a fine of up to $15. The state does not collect data on how many phones are confiscated and Counce was not sure if other states had similar policies.

Representatives at the American Association of School Administrators, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Association of State Boards of Education and the National School Boards Association also had not heard of such fines in other states.

Tammy Mitchell, is vice president of the Spring Hill Independent School District's PTA in Longview, Texas.

Her husband was a school teacher and they have a teenage daughter with a cell phone.

The family has "pretty strict rules" about the cell phone use and her daughter has never been slapped with a $15 fine. Still, she doesn't think the fine is that effective.

"I survived school without a cell phone and I'm kind of concerned that they are kind of out of control and a disruption," Mitchell said. But, "I don't know if the $15 penalty is really doing anything to improve the situation."

"They pay their $15, get the cell phone back and they're still using it," she added. "They are trying to be just a little more discrete about it. They sort of mock the system, in my opinion."

Mitchell said that good kids will do the responsible thing.

"The ones who don't care, and are obnoxious, get caught with their cell phones and pay the $15 fine, generally don't care about other things," she said. "What's $15 to most kids? They're not the ones paying it most of the time."

There have been times when her daughter has texted during school. But Mitchell draws a firm line.

"If my daughter texts me during the day and it's not a break or lunch time, I won't reply," she said. "I won't even acknowledge her because she's not supposed to have her phone."

She doesn't know what the schools should do to stop the rampant cell phone use, but fines -- in her mind -- are not the answer.

"But hey if it helps supplement the school's budget, I am for it," Mitchell added. "There are some tough times with the schools. I'm okay with them collecting the money, but I don't know that's teaching our kids anything."

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