From Texting in Class to the Student Strip-Searched for ADVIL: Are Schools Losing Their Sense of Boundaries?

Posted April 24, 2009 by

Is it just me, or does it seem like schools have lost their perspective when it comes to authority?

Did we all hear the story about the Wyoming middle-schooler who surprised her dad with a $4,000-plus bill due to her text messaging? The dad didn’t even think his cell plan offered texting…He smashed her phone to bits! I’d don’t know if I’d have done that…rather the wrong role model for how to deal with anger or solve problems…but I could imagine a pretty strong reaction.

What I didn’t see was much attention to this question:

Didn’t the teachers notice what she was doing in class? Because the bulk of her texts — thousands of them! — were sent during class time.

I insist on being one of my son’s Facebook “friends” and it’s interesting to see how many of the students at his high school post on Facebook all day long from their mobile devices. Even the children of school employees! My son can’t because I keep his phone during the school day after it rang in class once.

Why aren’t schools more aware of what kids are doing in the classrooms? Surely teachers can tell that kids are texting in class?

And on the other end of the spectrum, this week we had a Supreme Court case over an eighth-grade honor student who was strip-searched for ADVIL.

Are schools just overstepping their bounds? Trying to do what they can’t do (and maybe have no business doing) and forgetting what it is that they’re supposed to do? And just how far do we, as parents and taxpayers, have to go to be seen as “supportive” of schools and teachers, even when we disagree with their lack of oversight — or abuse of power?


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  1. Karla Report

    This comment is for Liz, who I hope will next write a
    book on her perfect parenting techniques! Teachers should be engaging all students, not just the easy ones! If a student is texting in your class and you do notice it, I think you are remiss not to inform the parent…who is not witnessing the event and may simply receive report cards that state a grade or a mindless comment .
    I would be upset if my chid’s teacher noticed him
    texting and never informed me.

    You missed the point of the article entirely. But your attitude towards other mere parents, not teachers, was
    very apparent.

  2. Lizz622 Report

    I think it’s interesting that you believe schools are overstepping their boundaries with students yet you believe that teaches should be involved with overseeing the use of electronic devices during class. As a teacher, and a parent, I believe that teachers should be teaching during class time. Much of what we’d like to accomplish during the school day is interrupted by special schedules, testing, etc. Adding the “policing” factor to the day is one more aspect of non-teaching duties that limit instructional time.

    It is entirely possible that some students are texting in class without being noticed, I’ve been in situations where I am busy teaching and focusing on the students who are engaged, only to notice that a student’s hands appear to be very busy under the desk while his/her eyes are one me. Today’s students are marvels at multi-tasking! Other times I choose to ignore the texting and continue teaching, opting to leave the disciplinary issues of texting to the parents—where I believe they belong.

    A child who is capable of racking up thousands of dollars in texting bills displays a basic lack of respect for his parents, their money and their efforts. I would guess that this lack of respect also extends to teachers and other adults in general. This is not something that can or should be addressed in biology class. Some students are capable of handling the privilege of carrying a cell phone, others are not. I feel confident to make this decision for my own children and would like to spend my work day engaged in educational discourse with students whose parents have made this determination for their own children by discussing with them how their privileges will be limited if they can’t behave as expected at school.

  3. volleydouglas Report

    I agree with Toni. I am in Canada, not sure where you are but my daughter is allowed her ipod and cell phone as the teachers say it is now part of their “culture” I really disagree with this and think they should leave these things intheir lockers or at home during school hours. She thinks school is boring and it probably is when the alternative is texting friends. I think we have become a society that is unable to be “out of touch” with people. What would happen if we couldn’t get a hold of someone? I would really like to see cell phones banned at school but am unsure of how to go about this without causing great stress at home!

  4. Annita Woz Report

    Interesting blog here Toni–excellent things to think about. The strip search thingy is what gave me the creeps– it appears that schools/administrators are so understaffed, maybe worried about lawsuits, maybe not focused on teaching a child but more focused on teaching for a test that they have created all sorts of rules to keep peace in the day so they don’t have to interract with the kids– interraction takes time! And classrooms today aren’t the way they were when we went to school- what kid would dare to sit and text during class? What kid would act out in class? There are more complicated behaviors, technologies, and budget restrictions and social norms that make a learning environment more complicated. I wouldn’t want to be a teacher in today’s school systems…



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