Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

$15 fine for cell phone use during class

Don’t use your cell phone during class if you’re a student at Canyon High School, in Canyon, Texas. This prominently displayed sign around the school puts everyone on notice (I assume this does not apply to teachers, however) they’ll face a $15 fine for violating the district cell phone use policy.


A few years ago when I was working for AT&T and gave a series of presentations on Internet Safety for students in Kingfisher, Oklahoma, students from Okeene told me they also had a school policy of fines for using a cell phone at school. I don’t know if that Okeene policy is still in place. At the time, students told me it was a graduated policy, with the fine amount increasing for repeated offenses.

Is it legal for schools to fine students like this for using a cell phone?

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14 responses to “$15 fine for cell phone use during class”

  1. David Wright Avatar
    David Wright

    One of my goals for this year is to begin dialog with Central Admin. to change this policy. I hope that your workshop has created a spark in others to do the same.

    One of the things you said that has stuck with me was the fact that students leave the filtered world of high school and go to college where cyberspace isn’t guarded. We need to teach our students how to be responsible and make good decisions in an unfiltered world!

    Thanks again for the motivating and informative session! I look forward to sharing positive news with you from CISD in the coming year!

  2. Bryan Person Avatar

    What concerns me is some schools’ close-mindedness about the use of cellphones. I don’t think they should be texting during class, for example–but what if it’s part of a project or activity?

    I also don’t see the harm in allowing students to use their phone responsibly, such as during their lunch break. My daughter is in high school and knows the difference between “responsibly” and “irresponsibly.” If I need to get her a message during the day, exchanging quick texts at lunchtime is much more efficient than calling the main office, having them find where she is, call up that teacher, etc.

  3. David Mach Avatar

    Who would receive the money? How could we be sure the teacher isn’t just pocketing it? If this is legal why not make all rule infractions hold HUGE penalties!? The school would be rich and the students and parents would have to become indentured servants to the school.

    What a slippery slope this is.

  4. Tracy Rosen Avatar

    I’m worried about much more than the 15$ fine when it comes to this school’s discipline policy. I read through their 30 page student code of conduct pdf.

    By reading through it, students at this school are not to be trusted and need strict rules, regulations, and consequences on a daily basis. Example – there are something like 17 direct rules for bus behaviour and another 19 or so indirect rules (like be at the bus stop on time, etc…)


  5. Chris Lehmann Avatar

    Sadly, it most probably is legal. Just not moral.

  6. Jeanne Biddle Avatar
    Jeanne Biddle

    I am flummoxed! We “say” we seek to engage students in learning with the digital tools they use daily, yet we create rules that frustrate students, teachers, admin, and parents, not to mention increased discipline reports and students caught in the web of passive compliance because they enter the doors of the schoolhouse with archaic policies and procedures.

    Didn’t Marc Prensky write, “Engage Me or Enrage Me”?

    It’s time all educators (parents and you too, students!) took time to review and update the policies and procedures that hinder and block learning with digital tools and instead redesign and celebrate the implementation and integration of these tools to enhance and excite students to learn at high levels not to mention prepare them for their future.

    As for the ban and fee for use of cell phones…it’s depressing.

  7. Chris Johnson Avatar
    Chris Johnson

    Texas EC § 37.082 allows for schools districts to charge up to a $15 fee for recovered confiscated “paging devices” (under which definition cell phones fall).

    Now as for whether it’s a good idea or not, many educators still find that student cell phones represent more of a distraction than a tool. Personally, I would prefer that students be given the opportunity to use cell phones responsibly rather than enacting a blanket ban on a type of device (especially at the high school level).

    I may be criticized for posting this opinion here, but compared to the other technologies that lie dormant in the storage closets of schools, I think cell phones have relatively poor potential as learning tools and are relatively powerful tools for distraction. Until we dramatically improve how we make use of more readily accessible technologies in the classroom, I am not particularly concerned about cell phone policies where I work.

  8. Greg Avatar

    Both the district that I’m at now and the one I worked for two years ago (both in east Texas) had and enforced the $15 fine for cell phones taken up during class. It is my understanding this practice is rather widespread in our state as most of my teacher friends operate under the same policy.

    It would be one thing if the district just had a “no cellphone” policy because they are concerned about students being distracted (or whatever their reason) but I strongly disagree with imposing a fine (which, at 3/4 of grade levels affects the parent more than the student).

    This is another area I think should be left to the autonomy of the individual classroom teacher.

  9. Bryan Avatar

    Good to see Canyon taking an active role in making sure that the students are actually paying attention instead of talking.

  10. Randy Avatar

    Two thoughts: First, I would defend someone who wanted to make a cell-phone exception on a limited basis if they could show how their project benefited directly. But I’d need to see some examples to believe this would ever approach becoming common enough to warrant raising the blanket ban on distracting technology.

    Second, iPads, smartphones, etc. might be great for running certain apps that could be made part of a quality instructional strategy. But feature phones whose sole purpose is basically to make calls and text? I’m unconvinced. In a low-SES district like mine, the only kids with smartphones are the “haves” from the, shall we say, not terribly diverse, rich neighborhoods and the kids whose parents made questionable decisions spending hundreds on a “be cool” toy for their kids. Many are left out of that equation and get feature phones or do without. I’m not interested in pressuring kids to “find a way” to afford very expensive phones for occasional projects, thus highlighting the very differences that I think are at the root of the achievement gap.

    In short, I see cell phones in my school as almost 100% distraction. There are a few arguments in favor of them — mother wants to text pick-up plans, PBL (I guess) — but none of them outweigh the drawbacks. I’m looking forward to using the $15 fine as a deterrent to keep cell phones off and put away during my classes this year.

  11. K Avatar

    I find it weird that most of the comments on here are very negatively slanted against this policy. It’s called discipline – did you need a text from your mom when reading shakespeare? They’re not telling your kids what clothes to wear, what to eat, what to pray to – just don’t use the **** cellphone in class! I’m sure there will be some teacher who’s a complete ******** about it and nails somebody for even putting in their pocket, however, hopefully most of the teachers will be decent about it and use the same common sense the students should have. It says on the poster “during class”.

    What possible explanation can you give for why your child should be texting or gaming during class? Sure, if there’s an emergency, OK – are you having family emergencies every day? Is every student?

    “Well what if they need it for a class project?” – I’m sure the teacher in charge can make that determination. WTH.

    how is this immoral?? “sadly immoral”? They’re just trying to keep some order in the classroom. Sure, reason might work with some kids but have you had a conversation with any adolescents recently?

    The freaky thing is that I’m pretty liberal about practically everything but I don’t see a defensible position for allowing cell phone usage *during class*.

    We don’t need more “My kid should be able to talk/text/avoid gym/etc”-policies. Your kid should be able to go to class and at least *feign* paying attention.

    Here’s an idea – go to class, look the teacher in the face and listen.

  12. John Avatar

    It would be great if students could act responsibly but some can’t no matter what you do. This is part of the education that the parents aren’t teaching. We do allow cellphones as part of a class but the rest of the time keep them put away.

  13. DBrown Avatar

    Interesting topic. I was looking up information in regards to a similar situation. My son (4th grade) was charged a 2 dollar fee for being disruptive in class. He pulled a yellow card… if he was to pull a red card, the fee is 5 dollars. We paid the fee with no questions and he will be “working” the two dollars off. I can understand how it could be an effective method. However, it could turn out to be very expensive as well. I will email his teacher and ask about where the money goes and her strategy behind this. I don’t want my child being disruptive, and we are very involved when it comes to disciplining him when he needs it… not sure this is the greatest method of discipline, especially since the parents are the ones who ultimately pay the price.

  14. Bill Avatar

    Topic intrigues me. I have a cell phone policy at my school that simply states no cell phones out during class time. I find this works for 99% of the students. I’m wondering if the $15 fine just sets up a whole layer of bureaucracy on how to collect, distribute, write receipts, or store un-bailed out phones etc. Can the students without a lot of money do lay away or can you pay $5 and get the SIM chip? All fooling aside, what kind of classroom would a student pull out a cell phone and start talking on it? We should be teaching the proper time and place for cell phones not becoming a police force and issuing cell phone tickets.