Cell phone confiscation policies vary from district to district

By Amy Davis - Reporter/Consumer Expert

HOUSTON - Our story about how much local school districts collected in fines after confiscating cell phones from students in class is getting plenty of buzz from parents, teachers and administrators. We're hearing from you about the issue of classroom distractions.

Believe it or not, the education code that allows schools to charge parents $15 to retrieve a confiscated cell phone was passed in 1995. Back then, the code was written for pagers.

Regardless of the technology, most everyone agrees students should not use any device that disrupts teaching, but you have a right to know what schools are doing with the money they collect.

Principal Hafedh Azaiez showed us the file drawer where he keeps every cell phone confiscated from students at Paul Revere Middle School. Last year, his school collected $1,295 in fines.

"We're not doing it to raise money or get more money," Azaiez said.

He says it's not fundraising, just holding students and parents accountable for disruptions to the school day.

While almost every school in our area charges the fine, cell phone policies vary from campus to campus. In Humble ISD, high school students can use phones in class for educational purposes with permission, in between classes and in the cafeteria. In HISD, the rules are different at each campus. And in Katy ISD, there is no fine. Cell phones are OK with teacher permission.

Other schools that didn't charge the fine last year at all include Pasadena High School and in Conroe ISD, only one high school, Woodlands College Park, collected $45 last year.

To see how your child's district handled the collection of fines, click on the links below for a breakdown of collection and expenses, and for written responses from several districts.

Statement from Conroe Independent School District:

"The total amount in fines collected by each Conroe ISD high school and middle school for cellphones and communications devices per the Texas Education Code 37.082 in the 2013-2014 school year -- I would like an amount for each campus. Only one CISD school collected fees for cellphone violations as a last resort and after consultation with parents -- the Woodlands College Park High School. For the 2013-2014 school year, they collected a total of $45.00. Accounting that shows how that money was spent broken down for each campus -- the money was deposited in the general student account and used for instructional purposes."

Statement from Katy ISD:

"Pursuant to your request for the information outlined, Katy ISD does not have responsive documents that relate to your request.  Katy ISD does not collect fines for cellphones or communication devices."

Explanation of fines:

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