A handful of parents have accused local school districts of extortion due to what they perceive as harsh campus cell phone policies.
Although some of these parents agree with the concept of discipline for breaking school policies, they are against this particular policy, in which parents must pay a fee to get back their child's cell phone once it has been confiscated.
Several Slaton ISD parents who did not wish to reveal their identity, voiced their concerns.
"I would like some investigation into the schools extorting money from the children and the parents pertaining to cell phones."
"The fact that they're asking for money is ridiculous because the legal definition of what they're doing is extortion."
We looked into it and found out that the State Legislature passed a bill in 2009, which gives school districts the option to adopt a policy regarding cell phones and electronic devices.
There is an administrative fee that ranges from $15 to $50 if students are caught using their cell phones without permission or for approved educational purposes.
Slaton ISD Superintendent, Julee Becker explains why her school district decided to implement the cell phone policy:
"It's a deterrent is what it is; we want kids focused."
We sat down with area school districts to find out if they enforce the policy and how much money has been collected this past school year:
Slaton ISD, which consists of 4 campuses, has collected a total of 72 phones at $15 each and has netted a total of $1,080. Students also have the option to get their phone back free of charge by waiting a period of 5 days.
Lubbock ISD, which has a total of 54 campuses, had 341 violations. 69 of those violations resulted in fines fixed at $15, which totals $1,035.
Frenship ISD has confiscated 120 phones and also charges a $15 fine. Last year they collected $1,800.
Lubbock-Cooper ISD had 90 cell phones confiscated and also charges $15 each cell phone, which amounts to $1,350.
All of the school districts we spoke with said the funds collected were put into a "Principal's Fund," which is spent entirely on student activities or needs, such as clothing for those who cannot afford a warm coat or proper shoes.
Some parents said the policy is confusing for students, since teachers are not always held to the same standards.
"I think they should lead by example. There have been times I myself have went into the high school and I've seen teachers texting on their own cell phones but yet they expect students to follow that same rule."
House Bill 861, filed by State Rep. Richard Raymond January 30, 2013, calls for an increase in the administrative fee for confiscated electronic devices, including cell phones. If passed, the maximum charge would be raised to $75.00. It would take effect in Texas schools September 1, 2013.
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