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School System Considers Jamming Students' Phones

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the only-one-man-would-dare-give-me-the-raspberry dept.

Communications 785

An anonymous reader writes "The St. Ansgar, Iowa school system is considering buying cell-phone jamming equipment for up to $5000 if it is deemed legal. The use of the equipment would be suspended in the case of an emergency, but one has to wonder if they would be quick enough to shut it down should an emergency arise. 'A Federal Communications Commission notice issued in 2005 says the sale and use of transmitters that jam cellular or personal communications services is unlawful.'"

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back in my day (5, Insightful)

loafula (1080631) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900515)

we didn't have cell phones. beepers were just starting to appear when i graduated high-school. we never had any problems alerting in the event of an emergency. we had fire alarms, PA system, and ye olde fashioned telephones in every classroom.

Re:back in my day (1)

oblivionboy (181090) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900741)

Oh yeah? That's nothing! Wait til Encino Man figures out how to type and then sign up on slashdot. Then he'll be telling you about how everyone used to accidentally light entire forests on fire to signal time for dinner, and tell long winded grunting stories about waiting around the cave fire for one of them to mutate and evolve.

Re:back in my day (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28900783)

In my day, we didn't have emergencies in school. I graduated before Columbine. Back then if someone made you mad, you just beat the shit out of them instead of shooting up the whole school. I saw stuff like a jock stealing a nerd's backpack in the lunchroom, and then the nerd smacking the jock in the head with a metal chair repeatedly until he was down and taking back the backpack. The lunch monitor didn't even flinch. No one gave such fights a second thought; not teachers, not parents, and not students.

Re:back in my day (4, Funny)

snowraver1 (1052510) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900829)

I think you are having a flashback of WWF summerslam '88

Re:back in my day (4, Interesting)

gnick (1211984) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900819)

Still, this is a simple solution. Kids don't need cell-phones in class. If there's an emergency, the principal can inform the student involved. So, block cell-phones.

However, active transmitters are illegal - And there are valid reasons for that. So use passive blockers. The cost is probably a little higher, but the result is the same. And you're not tangling with the FCC. Our local movie theater does it (although they built it in during construction, lowering the installation price).

Heck, call installing chicken-wire a "make-work" program and you may get a chunk of the stimulus $$.

Re:back in my day (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900935)

Maybe I don't know, the fact that they block things other than just cell phone signals might be an issue?

Sheesh. People don't seem to understand that.

Give it another 20 years and the social stigma of cellphones should go away and we should see less of shit like people complaining that a cellphone can be used anywhere, etc.

It's currently about the same level as the people who say they want the government to keep their hands off of medicare (a conundrum in and of itself)

Re:back in my day (5, Insightful)

loafula (1080631) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900967)

I don't think it's so much a social stigma as it is a distraction from the learning environment.

Re:back in my day (3, Insightful)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 5 years ago | (#28901041)

So are vocal chords, but we don't "block" those. We teach the kids how to use them properly in a learning environment, and punish them accordingly if they don't.

("Talk out of turn again, and you'll be here for detention")

Re:back in my day (2, Informative)

HeronBlademaster (1079477) | more than 5 years ago | (#28901057)

Why doesn't anyone realize that they'd be banning teachers from using cell phones as well? I know not all teachers use cell phones, but a lot do, and I doubt they'd be amused that they're suddenly unable to use a cell phone during the portion of the day when the cell phone is most useful (i.e. when they're not at home).

Re:back in my day (0, Troll)

c0y (169660) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900909)

There were no telephones in my classrooms growing up. There was one in the main office, one in the principal's office obviously, and a few pay phones here and there.

And back in the day, we also didn't have school shootings. If this were ever legalized, I can see more kids dying as a result of no one except the principal being able to call 911. Any guesses who the shooters will target first in that scenario?

Story needs a 'thinkofthechildren' tag.

Re:back in my day (2)

medv4380 (1604309) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900971)

Not to bring up a nasty memory for everyone but didn't Columbine teach us the kids will cell phones can help in an emergency. The last thing someone needs is for someone to plan out some stupid massacre and cut the phone lines and keep the cell phone jammer going.

Re:back in my day (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900997)

The catch is what if there is an emergency in a school and people gets trapped and their cellphones won't work because they are jammed?

And if there are phones outside the school that are jammed by accident?

There are better ways to deal with this kind of bad behavior in class. If the students uses their phones during breaks it's their business and not the school's. (assuming they are using the phones for legal purposes.)

Use of transmitters.... (1)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900521)

Just use the structures themselves and make them like a Wal*Mart or Home Depot. I never get signal in those stores!

Re:Use of transmitters.... (1)

sanosuke001 (640243) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900765)

Yeah, just use materials that absorb cellular wavelengths and there's gotta be special coatings you can put on the windows.

Re:Use of transmitters.... (1)

infalliable (1239578) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900995)

Faraday cage.

If it's legal? (3, Informative)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900523)

I'll help them:

It isn't.

Re:If it's legal? (0)

dbet (1607261) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900661)

It's also potentially unethical. What if you're a doctor or emergency worker on call?

Re:If it's legal? (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900685)

Many (perhaps most) things that are made illegal are made so for ethical reasons, so yes...

Re:If it's legal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28900743)

hahah you mean most things are made illegal for unethical reasons. ie who has the most money to push congress.

Re:If it's legal? (2, Interesting)

Seumas (6865) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900823)

I'm one of those "what the fuck does a kid need a cell phone for?" people, but I'm also one of those "as long as they're not whipping it out in class and turn the ringer off, who the fuck cares?" people.

You don't need a signal jammer to keep kids from using their phones during class. You just need a teacher to tell them not to do it and follow through on consequences for using phones in class. Seems simple enough to me. I can, however, see the appeal of a cell jammer from the administration's point of view. After all, considering all of the violations teacher's are found guilty of in school -- from smacking a kid, to duct-taping a kid's mouth shut, to duct-taping them to their desk, to going on angry tirades, to strip searching half a dozen pre-pubescent girls because someone said their pencil was stolen or whatever, the LAST thing you want is for a student to be able to make a phone call right away to get help from an adult who will act as some sort of advocate for the child. Much better to keep them stuck in school, on school grounds, without a way to contact anyone in such cases so that you have until the end of the school day to think up an excuse, explanation, scape-goat or otherwise manipulate the situation and the information.

Hell, your child is more likely to be abused or molested by their teacher in school than they are being shot up by a classmate.

Re:If it's legal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28900913)

Would you be a dear and cite evidence for all your outrageous claims?

Re:If it's legal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28901063)

I was always whipping it out in class.

And that was before cell phones were invented.

Re:If it's legal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28900927)

I would venture to say that most doctors and emergency workers won't be found attending middle or high school...

Re:If it's legal? (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#28901059)

But could they be called? Lets say a student randomly collapsed? I would call that as a requirement to call an emergency worker who might need to call any number of people for a number of reasons.

Re:If it's legal? (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 5 years ago | (#28901115)

Emergency workers would likely be the ones to respond to an emergency. People fall down stairs, assault other people, have critical asthma attacks, get stung by insects to which they have allergies, have heart attacks, and get food poisoning even if they are school students or faculty. If the school catches on fire or there is a tornado (fairly likely in Iowa compared to most of the world) and the kids can't call their parents, there will be hell to pay.

What if.... (5, Interesting)

RingDev (879105) | more than 5 years ago | (#28901053)

What if instead of jamming phones, the school put up their own cell antena. They could work with the other local providers to tweek the handoff rules such that phones in side the school are significantly more likely to stay on the school's tower.

Once you have all of those phones on the school's tower it would be simple to shut down texting and internet access while still allowing access to 911 and emergency numbers listed in the student's records.

Sure, it'll cost more than $5000 to get up and maintain, but it is much more likely to pass muster.

Personally though, I'm all for the confiscate and return rule. It's cheaper AND it reinforces lessons in personal responsibility.

-Rick

I might be too old... (5, Insightful)

anomnomnomymous (1321267) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900533)

But what happened to good ol' telling them not to use their mobiles, and if they -do- use it, apply punishment?
I obviously didn't RTA, but what a waste of money... (if not the possible consequences)

Re:I might be too old... (4, Insightful)

oahazmatt (868057) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900705)

But what happened to good ol' telling them not to use their mobiles, and if they -do- use it, apply punishment?

A crapload of lawsuits against the schools happened.

When I was a senior in high school, a student started physically assaulting one of the teachers. The teacher didn't fight back because he had been instructed, as the entire faculty had been, to not do so as the school would face a lawsuit if a teacher injured a student.

I noticed that as I went from Kindergarten to a Senior in High School the teachers seemed to become less aggressive. They no longer bellowed "sit down and do your work" but asked you politely to "stay on task, everyone".

I was glad I got out before things became any more passive-aggressive.

Re:I might be too old... (-1, Flamebait)

Seumas (6865) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900847)

Teachers don't give a shit. Many of them don't even want to bother getting off their asses and teaching - much less keeping them in line in class.

Re:I might be too old... (1)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 5 years ago | (#28901027)

But what happened to good ol' telling them not to use their mobiles, and if they -do- use it, apply punishment?
I obviously didn't RTA, but what a waste of money... (if not the possible consequences)

This.

Come an emergency... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28900541)

...but one has to wonder if they would be quick enough to shut it down should an emergency arise.

Come a proper emergency, shutting down the scramblers will be the last thing on anyones mind. Bad idea is bad, whatever happened to just confiscating toys from disobedient children?

Why not run their own picocells? (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900549)

Better yet, contract out the job and have all non-registered phones blocked during school hours.

Only adults would be allowed to register phones.

Re:Why not run their own picocells? (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900869)

Because this would make it so the school district would actually have to put a technical person on their payroll.

From what I gather 1) school districts tend to not want techs of any sort on the payroll and 2) most school districts don't have the money for techs anyway.

I am not on the inside of any school district so I might be wrong, but it seems that most schools have a strong bias against techs for whatever reason. Again though this is just my impression.

Re:Why not run their own picocells? (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#28901015)

Exactly. I was taught "computers" by a business major in high school who didn't know a thing about programming computers. I took every single computers class offered (well, aside from remedial computers and keyboarding II because I already had about a 70 WPM typing speed) and the most advanced thing I learned was basic HTML (as in, I use more complex formatting to format this /. post than I learned in that class) that was obsolete when I was being taught it, let alone today.

Their sysadmin (if you can call them that) called me several times during my high school years for tech advice. In short, I had a shocking experience in college where some students actually learned programming, and I was way behind. In short, small to medium sized schools don't hire techs.

All your base... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28900555)

are belong to us.

You have no chance to survive make your time.

Re:All your base... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28900901)

WHAT YOU SAY?!?!?!

Re:All your base... (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 5 years ago | (#28901095)

Someone jam us up the cellphone.

WTF? (0, Redundant)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900565)

Is a school rule to turn off phones in class not sufficient? Why do they need to jam them?

Re:WTF? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28900633)

Because we all know that kids never violate school rules...

Re:WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28900859)

Because we all know that kids never violate school rules...

Therefore the only solution is an illegal and massively stupid idea.

Re:WTF? (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900723)

Why is a school researching something that is currently illegal?

Re:WTF? (4, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900831)

I think the main problem is really the fact that the school is not designed for the 21st century. Students should be -encouraged- to collaborate because the real world is built on collaboration and research. Memorization ends up being part of it when you research the same thing. Think of programming, even if you use a reference book, eventually you start to memorize it to the point where you hardly need to look in the book. Really, the school system needs reformed, more critical thinking, less multiple choice or single-answer questions, because like it or not that isn't the real world. You aren't locked in a dark room with no internet, no reference materials, no collaboration and being handed a sheet of questions. That isn't how it works. Schools should not be teaching the way they are, teach in a way that allows collaboration because that is how the real world works.

Unlawful, probably (4, Interesting)

ultraexactzz (546422) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900589)

In most places, and correct me if I'm wrong, but no one can impede the function of a cellphone when it is calling emergency services. Hell, a 10-year-old cellphone with no service provider still has to be able to connect to 911 - many cities solicit old phones for use by women in domestic violence shelters as emergency phones for just this reason. If the jamming can be rigged to let 911 calls through, then this might be legal from that standpoint.

Whether the FCC allows such things overall, though, is quite another issue.

Re:Unlawful, probably (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28900791)

In most places, and correct me if I'm wrong, but no one can impede the function of a cellphone when it is calling emergency services. Hell, a 10-year-old cellphone with no service provider still has to be able to connect to 911 - many cities solicit old phones for use by women in domestic violence shelters as emergency phones for just this reason. If the jamming can be rigged to let 911 calls through, then this might be legal from that standpoint.

Whether the FCC allows such things overall, though, is quite another issue.

Not if the device jams the 900Mhz and 1800Mhz band. A cell phone is essentialy a radio, no signal equals no service regardless.

In before... (4, Funny)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900591)

In before completely unrealistic, hypothetical scenario involving an off-work doctor who is out on his unicycle, when someone gets their second cellphone stuck in their throat, and would have been saved if it hadn't been for the phone-jamming equipment in operation at a nearby school.

Re:In before... (1)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900923)

In before completely unrealistic, hypothetical scenario involving an off-work doctor who is out on his unicycle, when someone gets their second cellphone stuck in their throat, and would have been saved if it hadn't been for the phone-jamming equipment in operation at a nearby school.

That's pretty far-fetched. A doctor having his phone on when he's off-work? How realistic is that?

Jam? (4, Funny)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900593)

What kind? Blackberry?

Re:Jam? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28900759)

Sup dawg, we heard you like jam so we put blackberry in your Blackberry so you can toast while you text.

Re:Jam? (1)

GofG (1288820) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900763)

Strawberry! Only one person would dare give me strawberry!! The public school system!

Re:Jam? (1)

Tibor the Hun (143056) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900999)

No dummy, Apple. It's way better (looking) than Blackberry....

Re:Jam? (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 5 years ago | (#28901005)

That's called butter, not jam. :p

Nice to know the've got emergencies covered... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28900601)

When a girls being raped in the changing rooms? Oh I can't dial 911 as my phones jammed, let me just ask the nearest teacher to go to the principal to find the technician to switch it off.

Re:Nice to know the've got emergencies covered... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28900833)

So do you work for Fox News or do you actually have even one single example of your scenario ever having occurred?

Re:Nice to know the've got emergencies covered... (1)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900865)

Only if they are retarded enough to think that their voice cannot be heard without it going through a phone first.

With the exception of a phone that has some sort of panic button, I don't think a phone would be much more use than a calculator in that or similar scenarios. Screaming/yelling, kicking/biting, etc would be much more effective, than 15 seconds to dial, wait for someone to answer, then wait for whoever answers to decide if it's a joke or not, and then if they act upon it, how long it takes them to "help", same goes for fires, and pretty much anything else that would happen in the school. If the blocker was large enough to cover the entire property, fields, alleys, etc that would be a different story though.

what school would that be? (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900881)

Oh I can't dial 911 as my phones jammed, let me just ask the nearest teacher to go to the principal to find the technician to switch it off.

Because of course most schools wouldn't have regular phones anywhere in the building. I'm sure that teacher that you found to go ask the principal wouldn't have been able to find a phone to dial from, either.

Re:Nice to know the've got emergencies covered... (2, Insightful)

Ogive17 (691899) | more than 5 years ago | (#28901081)

It's a good thing almost every kid 12 years and older now has a cell phone... I can't believe I survived school without one. Those emergencies that happened every day... people getting raped, terrorists trying to take over the school, Canadians invading.

Calling 911 will not prevent the rape anways.

I'd just ban cell phone use if I were a principal/school admin. Get caught using it during school hours for non-emergencies.. phone gets confiscated til the end of the week and you get a detention. Hell, I wasn't allowed to even chew gum or wear a hat. Now get off my lawn.

emergency/911 calls? (1, Insightful)

contrapunctus (907549) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900605)

It'll take a failed emergency call to get the school sued...

Re:emergency/911 calls? (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900947)

Or forgetting to turn it off during parent orientation or teacher conferences with one too many lawyer parents present.

Re:emergency/911 calls? (2, Interesting)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 5 years ago | (#28901087)

Very true, but that all depends on how the jamming is done. If it's done in cooperation with the cell companies, perhaps the "jam" can be some form of signal that puts the phones in "SOS Mode" (911 calls go through, everything else is blocked). I know when I have marginal signal on my AT&T BlackBerry (not enough to have any chance of completing a call, but enough to see that a tower is out there) it goes into this mode. Still, this seems to be something better solved by a simple, enforced rule. Cell phones are allowed on school grounds, and may be used freely during break periods and between classes, and during class only with permission (if the student is done with some assignment early and is on "slack time", for example). If a student is caught using a cell phone during a time when it is not permissible, the cell phone will be confiscated and (and this is important) A PARENT will be allowed to pick it up after school, or must give verbal consent for the phone to be released back to the student. None of this "the worst that can happen is your cell is returned at the end of the day". If the student is using a cell as a distraction while they are in class, this should prompt at least a brief discussion between a school representative and the parent. Then the parent has enough information at hand to do their job. In case you have a parent who refuses to do their job, make repeat "cell offenses" the same as sneaking any other banned item into the class (answer key, crib notes, etc). Student is unable to take any test that may take place that day and gets an automatic zero, after-school detention, revocation of privileges, etc, on the usual escalating scale of severity.

Authority Figures (1)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900611)

It's unfortunate that teachers have ceased to be considered authority figures.

Why should they muck around with jamming when they can just confiscate the phones when they are being used in violation of school policy and then returned at the end of the day, as has been done for countless other disruptive devices (before the wussification of America and the rise of the helicopter parent)?

Re:Authority Figures (1)

SomeJoel (1061138) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900817)

before the wussification of America

We used to call it pussification. Looks like they got to you, too.

Re:Authority Figures (3, Interesting)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900939)

Because mommy and daddy will take little Timmy's side on everything. So they will take the school to court because a teach took Timmy's phone away because he was playing with it in class.

Students know that the teacher can not do anything to them, and that in some cases the parents don't care if they misbehave in school, or misbehave at all. So they do not respect authority figures.

It is one think to not respect authority when your rights are being violated, it is another thing to not respect authority when other people around you are trying to learn.

more info (0, Flamebait)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900625)

the school [k12.ia.us] , the superindendent jim woodward [k12.ia.us] , his phone number : 641-713-4681, his email jwoodward@st-ansgar.k12.ia.us, his office hours 7:45am to 4pm, and the next school board meeting [trumba.com] is 08/10/2009 7:00 pm, the last meeting minutes [k12.ia.us] discussing jamming of cell phones

The board discussed jamming cell phones during school hours. IASB does not have a legal opinion on it. Kleinwort moved duly 2nd by Shupe to spend up to $5,000 to jam cell phones during school hours for the 2009-10 school year. Ayes-Hatten, Hertel, Gordon, Stelpflug, Shupe, and Kleinwort. Nays-None.

plus how to get to the next meeting [google.com]

Re:more info (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28900805)

Why hello, anon.

There's an easier solution... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28900627)

Jamming cell phones is well and good, but what about when students start using other electronic devices without authorization? For just a little bit more they could build their own Goldeneye satellite, offering scalability, 99.9% downtimes, full IP integration, and more!

Wow (1)

GofG (1288820) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900629)

Are cell phones really that detrimental to classroom activities? I would imagine that if you took cell phones away from the "texters", they would simply find something else to distract them from the lesson. There is the argument that texting makes cheating easier; i'm sure they can figure out a way to stop cheaters without blocking all cell phone access at school.

Re:Wow (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900907)

Exactly, teachers claim they are a "distraction" however most of the distraction came, not surprisingly, from the teacher. A cell phone goes off because its not on silent, it takes 2 seconds to turn the volume down and stick it back in your pocket, on the other hand when the teacher has to confiscate it and make a big deal, it takes a whole lot longer.

Really, they should be -encouraging- the use of cell phones because that is how the real world is. It is pointless to have more "get a sheet of questions and answer them" because the real world isn't like that. The real world uses collaboration and research. Teachers need to use more critical thinking, things that will help in the -real world-, something that school is supposed to prepare you for.

Re:Wow--The Original Texting (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900911)

I would imagine that if you took cell phones away from the "texters", they would simply find something else to distract them from the lesson

Like passing notes -- the original method of texting?

disabled during emergency? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28900641)

Sure, when the shooters are on a rampage, you'll remember to turn off the cell jammer. Plus what if one of your students is a first caller.

I hate cell phones in schools, but rules and enforcement took care of it fine when I was a student a decade ago.

You are doing it wrong! (1)

Seth Kriticos (1227934) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900645)

Whatever happened with the classic scenario of the teacher saying: "If you don't put away that fucking cell phone during class, I'll confiscate it and you can get it after school again!" ??

These people obviously fail to see that social problems can't be solved with technology. They can be solved with education. (Ask a school, oh wait..).

And yes, it's illegal too..

Who's emergency? (1)

drjoe1e6 (461358) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900649)

For a school-wide or town-wide emergency, of course they'll shut off the jammer.
What if a student's parent (or a teacher's spouse) is being rushed to the hospital? They will need to ramp up the old-fashioned "call the school, let them track down the person" mechanism. Cell phones have made those days obsolete.

-Joe

Re:Who's emergency? (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900953)

And the problem being that the old-fashioned "...track down the person..." mechanism, as inefficient as it was, due to being obsolete is now near impossible. The assumptions of the past have changed and are no longer compatible with the assumptions of the present.

Ummm.....why (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28900657)

What problem is this going to solve. Are teachers taking calls during lessons? Are students texting each other exam questions?

You realize, of course, some lawyer is going to say 'How will a woman ring the police if there gangs of rapists that appear suddenly?'

Active jamming is illegal in the US (3, Informative)

Radi-0-head (261712) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900691)

First off - yes, this is very illegal which is why you don't see the use of active jamming equipment in the US. If they want to instead build a Faraday cage around the entire campus, this would be the "legal" - though prohibitively expensive - way of getting around the issue.

If in fact they attempt this, and staff or a student have a bona-fide medical emergency and are unable to summon emergency services, this district will then be tasked for paying for a home nurse to wipe the drool off of said victim's face for the rest of their lives.

You would think those who work in education would, you know, educate themselves on the relevant laws and ramifications of actions... nahhh, this is the US public school system we're talking about here.

It's not that complicated... (3, Interesting)

Ericular (876826) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900703)

If the phone is seen or heard anytime during school hours, it's taken away, and the parent can come claim it. Parents will get sick of having to do that pretty quick, and the students will learn what happens if they use them during school. In our school district, each school can make the specific rules regarding cell phones, and this is generally how they handle the issue. The best part is, the policy is free to implement and only affects a small minority of phones (the offenders) in an emergency situation.

   

Can't do it (2, Informative)

No2Gates (239823) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900707)

It's a violation of FCC rules to use jamming devices. However, you can create a "faraday cage" in all the classrooms, using fine-meshed wire on windows and doors to prevent signals from getting in or out.

Cheaper solution: (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28900709)

How about instead of investing in high tech, non-legal solutions, we go with the old fashioned solution to problems.

If an item is found to be distracting, that item will be confiscated for the rest of the class period (hour/block/day as appropriate) and/or the student using the distracting item will be sent to the office.

Way I figure, this rule should still apply to cell phones just as much as they did to papers being passed back in the day.

If cheating is the issue, then maybe the teacher should proctor in a more active manner (ie walking the aisles).

Removing the ability to use cell phones for anyone near/in the school is dangerous, irrisponsible and illegal.

How about... (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900711)

How about actually -allowing- them and designing the curriculum around them? There are some things you can't fit in a text message, essays, critical thinking, etc. And those are the real skills that will actually matter. Similarly, in the real world, you do have access to the internet and any and all reference materials. The school system seems to be designed for 1950s level technology and advancement. Not 2009 which we live in. Collaboration, research and technology are a real part of the world. Contrary to popular belief in most jobs you don't get locked alone in a completely silent environment without internet, phones, etc. to do your job.

Re:How about... (1)

dltaylor (7510) | more than 5 years ago | (#28901079)

Maybe you had parents with functional brains, but most American students do not.

The mindless rabble has been stridently demanding simple "regurgitate (what pass for) facts" tests since, at least, the start of Dumbya's administration. "essays, critical thinking, etc." are specifically opposed.

From my experience and observation, most parents oppose critical thinking in their children because they cannot deal with children applying those skills to their parents' own delusions.

Faraday shield (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900729)

Of course that can cost millions of dollars for a school building. But I heard of a theater that put one in while it was constructing the building (it's a lot cheaper then).

Re:Faraday shield (2, Funny)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900795)

Tin foil is even cheaper. And it looks really cool and quasi-futuristic.

Re:Faraday shield (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28901129)

Wouldn't work - that would block the government mind rays as well.

Just in case... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28900733)

..there's a fire, or someone starts shooting a bunch of students and teachers.

'Cause you know, it'd be terrible for the students to be able to contact their parents in case of an emergency.

Can't Do It In Prisons (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900789)

If you can't do it in prisons where phones are illegal to start with, what makes you possibly think that you could do it in a school, no matter how well justified the reasons for it may be?

Let's be fair, here (1)

cupantae (1304123) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900793)

OK
A lot of people are saying things about the cost, but it probably wouldn't cost much.
A lot of people mention security, but there are obviously ways of doing this without making the school less secure than it would be with the pupils' phones off.

The question here is, why would they do this?! What do they think is the point of the no-phones rule? If students insist on breaking it, those same students are certainly not going to learn a lot more with more strict regulation. This, to me, is a classic example of people trying to find the best way to enforce a particular rule without really considering what is to be gained by that. The use of mobile phones is an effect of students misbehaving, not a cause.

a slippery slope, best stop this nice and quick (2, Insightful)

Helix150 (177049) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900825)

Jamming cell phones is a slippery slope and I think we (as a society) would be just as well off to put a stop to this right here.

There is of course the fact that jamming a cell phone for almost any reason is quite illegal. But let's set that aside.

As has often been mentioned- the idea that the jammer would be shut off in an emergency is absurd. If there's a 'big' emergency nobody will remember to turn it off (assuming anybody knows how to), and for 'little' emergencies (as someone else said, girl getting raped in the locker room) this would create a serious problem. Plus which a jammer, being an RF emitter, doesn't immediately stop jamming when you walk thru the school doors. It will either be overpowered, and reduce or degrade service around the school, or underpowered leading to kids just sitting next to the window so their phones will work.

These problems arise anytime you talk about cell phone jamming, and there is no solution. Cell networks are encrypted, so you can't block only non-emergency calls. And no carrier is going to be the first one to step up and help block their customers, it's just not in anybody's best interest.

This is a societal problem, not a technical one, and it requires a societal fix. If people are yakking on their phone in the movie theater, the solution isn't a jammer, the solution is to get people to not be rude assholes.
As for the school, if they can't get kids to pay attention in class maybe the problem is that their lesson plan is boring and the teacher couldn't care less if the kids are interested or not. Or perhaps their problem is that the faculty doesn't demand student respect, so students ignore the rules.

As a previous poster said- just take away the phone or battery of any kid that is using it in class and give it back to him at the end of the day. If he does it again make his parent come in and get it.

Put simply, this school has a discipline problem and needs better teachers or better administration. It does not have a technical problem, so a technical solution won't help them.

Why not just paint the school? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28900843)

RF Shielding Paint http://www.lessemf.com/paint.html

NaturalNano was supposed to be creating a paint for this as well, but I can't find it on their site now.

Bad solution (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900891)

For each violation a teacher can decide whether to let it slide or dismiss the student from the classroom. Miss enough classes and you fail the class. In college there is more leniency with letting you step out and take a call, but otherwise professors will still kick you out if you're disruptive or blatantly don't pay attention. Jamming the phones now just means professors have to play daycare more when the students haven't learned how to turn the things off.

I guess I sound somewhat "get off my lawn"-ish (I don't use my cellphone for much and rarely text), but if you aren't paying attention due to your cellphone you aren't benefitting from being in the classroom and you aren't helping anyone who may be distracted by you. And turning off your cellphone (or setting it to vibrate) at appropriate times is a common courtesy students should learn.

the solution is simple (sort of): (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900895)

not jamming, but traffic shaping

something dramatically different than technologically that simply fills an rf frequency with white noise or pink noise. it could simply monitor all calls for geolocation by triangulation or gps and time code, overlaid with blueprints. geographically and temporally refined: let it be used outside, but not inside, 2 meters away, along a straight line. allow a phone to be used during lunch time in the cafeteria, but then not during study hall an hour later, all the while the library is completely verboten. etc., etc.

you could even trigger it so the moment someone makes a 911 call, anywhere, for any reason, the entire system shuts down and anyone anywhere can call anyone. since 911 calls are logged and tracked, legally, it wouldn't be a privacy intrusion to identify the culprit of a phony 911 caller. likewise, the whole intelligent jamming system could be designed to have no privacy implications whatsoever, just blocking some phone according to location and time, who knows whose phone. it COULD be used to snoop, but not any more than the current cell phone providers already does. and besides, it would have to work in close cooperation with the cell networks, and so these installations would not be anonymous or unmarked or unknown, allowing for some sort of privacy policy to be enforced

the whole point is, any problem like this is actually a business growth industry waiting to happen, and somebody, perhaps one of us reading this comment will start a company that will be earning 100 million a year in 10 years providing exactly this sort of jamming to movie houses, universities, churches, etc. all that is required is the fcc to open the doors, and the current cell networks can easily see the light here in terms of new revenue sources

currently the policy of cell phones is anyone can use it anywhere. there's no reason in the world why cemetaries shouldn't be allowed to shut that off during funerals, or courthouses during trials, or churches during weddings, all triggered to shut down and allow all traffic the moment anyone hits 911. the tech is already there, just the willpower and the accretion around the idea that traffic shaping for cell network's time has come

Re:the solution is simple (sort of): (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28900949)

yeah, that's simple enough ...

SO Stupid (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900925)

1: It's illegal
2: What's to stop kiddies from skyping, iming, etc. over wifi?

Not so bad (4, Funny)

atomic_bomberman (1602061) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900933)

When I was in high school, rock music and dancing were illegal. We couldn't even dance at prom. That is, until Kevin Bacon moved to our town.

Health Issues for the kids (1)

JO_DIE_THE_STAR_F*** (1163877) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900955)

There seems to be a lot of concern about cell phones causing tumors. I'm just guessing here but wouldn't a cell phone jammer be outputting at a much higher wattage therefore causing more tumors in kid's?

The point is irrelevant though as these things are illegal. United States: illegal to operate, manufacture, import, or offer for sale, including advertising (Communications Act of 1934)[4], with fines of up to $11,000 and imprisonment of up to one year. [fcc.gov]

Not legal (2, Interesting)

Joiseybill (788712) | more than 5 years ago | (#28900979)

I work at a Law School. If my building full of lawyers couldn't figure an angle to make this work, I'm pretty sure it isn't going to work.
      It isn't legal, and if it were, it will open up a whole lotta liability for the school.

Scenario: Columbine-like event. Students & instructors try but cannot call for help because attackers first control the prinicpal's / Dean's office where the equipment can be shut off.

Sceanrio2: I'm a (age of majority)-year old (substitute teacher | student | janitor ), and my (Parent |spouse | child | ward) is (sick | giving birth| dying | being attacked | at the hospital | being sent home from school) .. and I'm the number they were able to reach on speed-dial. .. but I can't receive signals.

Possible solutions:
  1) make a no-phones rule and enforce it. Make parents sign consent to confiscate phones as condition of attendance.
        If a student is disruptive with a phone, confiscate it and make parent come to school to retrieve it. Inconvenience the parents and they'll deal with the kids.

  2) Actually teach. In many (not all) cases, the teachers/professors most upset by this are the same 'educators' who can't keep a student's attention for more than 15 seconds.
        If you made your class interesting ( presupposing: you care, you know the material, you work at presenting it fresh).. then students would watch you, and not try to find something else to do.

  3) Make it worth Verizon's or ATT's investment. For the right price, you know there's got to be a switching solution.
        (a) - refuse to route calls unless the parties are registered in advance.. i.e.: Johnny's cell can always rcv calls from 20 numbers his parents register plus appropriate emergncy numbers, but during school hours, and while in the school+corporate "cell" range, he cannot rcv any other calls / send to other numbers at certain times. Optionally leave recess and 'free period" schedules open.
        (b) - make it a condition of class attendance that -Privacy is lost- all cell phone records of calls made inside the School's cell are open for School officials to review. If caught using a cell phone for anything non-emergent during any class or exam, penalize, suspend or expel student.
        (c) come up with (or activate existing) remote programming modes. While ( in [area of school] and [hours= school time]) force ringer to (vibrate) + disable email / internet browsing + limit text count to 3 - 5 per hour. ( naturally, allow fairly easy remote or local override by parent or LE when necessary and appropriate)

Good Luck! (1)

beadfulthings (975812) | more than 5 years ago | (#28901003)

People are using smuggled cell phones for arranging hits and drug deals from prison here in Homicide City, and we can't even get permission to jam the airspace over the prisons. We've resorted to specially trained cell-phone-sniffing dogs in Maryland, and apparently our methods are much requested by prison systems in other states.

What would be wrong with something like, "Keep your cell phones turned off. First offense, a week in jug. Second offense, two weeks in jug. Third offense, you don't get to finish the year..."? Maybe they don't put kids in detention any more.

If the cell phone carriers object as strenuously as they do to cutting off a bunch of felons, they're really going to begin screaming if somebody tries to cut off a bunch of high school students.

Symptom, not the cure (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 5 years ago | (#28901023)

They aren't treating the disease. If you block a kids cell phone he'll find some other way to communicate with friends.

Try to get them to stop chatting before you try to stop them from chatting. There IS a difference.

Airlines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28901031)

This isn't about disruption, education, cheating, or anything else--it's about control. It's the same reason airlines don't want phones on aircraft--if there's an emergency on the ground, or somebody's loved one gets ran down by a bus--they can't communicate, can't get information, and can't panic.

The schools want to exercise the same sort of control over their charges--and cellphones enable people to work around the bureaucracy established to inhibit the flow of information. If they can keep students from getting timely information about the outside world, they can better heard them onto bleachers in event of whatever the disaster/threat of the day is.

To the people who say kids don't need cellphones--you make me sick. You don't need a phone, electricity, or running water--but these very implements are essential to participation in modern society. Would you have our schools raise a bunch of children without permitting them the very best tools and collaborative resources available?

To the people who say it takes too long--I once was stopped by a few jackasses--opened my phone in my pocket, pressed and held "9", hit the speakerphone button, and kept my thumb over the earpiece that makes noise.

What conversation do you think the 911 operator heard?

Sorry--this isn't about education, it's about them keeping students from calling the police or her parents when they strip search a girl suspected of possession of tylenol.

If they want this measure--that's fine. But only if the school accepts strict liability for any and all security incidents, regardless of whether they occur by staff, student, or outsider--and punitive damages on top of that in the event any staff ever do anything that could be even speculatively assumed to be a result of abuse of lack of communications by student.

Detect and confiscate rather than jam (1)

izomiac (815208) | more than 5 years ago | (#28901069)

It seems that a more legal/safer method would be to simply make a rule requiring all cell phones be turned off and use detection equipment to detect when students break that rule. OTOH, I suppose one wouldn't be able to localize the signal much more accurately than a classroom, but that should be enough to inform a teacher to keep a closer eye on their students. Identifying cell phone users in hallways and such would be harder... but I doubt that's as important.

An Emergency Un-Jammer? (1)

dmomo (256005) | more than 5 years ago | (#28901071)

Near all fire alarms? That sets off its own alarm? I don't imagine kids will casually pull that thing just so they can make a call. Then again.. I guess I shouldn't underestimate these kids!

I suppose it would be hard to talk to a 911 operator with that alarm going off, but still... I'm sure their used to hearing alarms.

FCC Rules (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28901091)

I think the FCC might have just a tiny little bit to say about this....like say licensed frequencies, unidentified signal transmissions, transmission device uncertified for these frequencies, exceeding Part15 power limits etc.

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