Student Films Principal Fighting Another Student… School Board Bans Mobile Phones

from the what-are-we-teaching-our-children? dept

A few years ago, we wrote a story about some students filming a teacher’s angry outburst in a classroom and putting that film up on the web. Rather than disciplining the teacher for the outburst, the school disciplined the students and banned mobile phones. The lesson? It’s okay for teachers to act inappropriately. It’s not okay for students to reveal that behavior. It seems other schools want to teach that same lesson. The Agitator points us to another school that has banned mobile phones in school after a student filmed the principal in a physical fight with another student. At least in this case, the principal was put on leave. No matter what you think concerning mobile phones in schools, it seems pretty clear that this change in policy was brought about because of the principal getting filmed. If anything, that should be a reason to encourage more students to have mobile phones — so that they can expose inappropriate behavior. Apparently, the school board believes its better to just pretend inappropriate behavior doesn’t exist rather than to document it.

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Comments on “Student Films Principal Fighting Another Student… School Board Bans Mobile Phones”

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Chronno S. Trigger says:

At Least?

“Board member Dottie Bell brought the concept up after a student’s cell phone video that showed Huntington High School Principal Jerry Davis and a student in a physical altercation garnered local media attention and subsequently forced the system to place Davis on paid administrative leave.”

I don’t know if it’s the reporter or just a bad choice of words but the “subsequently forced” part makes it seem as if the principal would not have been relieved without the video.

We need more information. Why were they fighting? Did the principal start it or was it self defence? Of course even in the linked article it doesn’t answer those questions.

xtrasico (profile) says:

Back in the day...

I am 36 y/o. When I was in school, if teachers abused us verbally or physically we had no way of showing it to their superiors or our parents. We just had to cry or swallow it because most of the times our parents would say “What you were doing that he/she did that? ARE YOU SURE???”. Now our kids have a way to report those incidents. OK, maybe some kids are hard to control and some disrespect their teachers, but not all are that way. At least my kids HAVE to respect their teachers… or else.

Pat says:

Not Surprised

(Which older generation are you speaking of? I’m part of the “learn it and do it or get out of the way” group and I’m in no way alone). Great that these kids taped the thing. I think it would be better to have cameras in the classrooms, hallways, teachers’ lounge, and offices so that everything is recorded and all parties are protected. Yeah, I know, a bit BB, but Nathaniel misses one point; kids tend to sure that what they post isn’t the whole story — no before and after — since they tend to the extreme, like some activists I know; cameras all around would show everything unless it starts in the bathrooms. And drkkgt, you can’t sue for privacy unless you plan to spend the rest of your life inside your house.

me.g33k (user link) says:

Level the playing field

While discussing this with my co-workers they mentioned a similar circumstance back when they were in High School. The matter at the time was smoking. The school setup a designated smoking area and established governance rules towards making a compromise workable. This largely took the problem away.

In the case of the school disctrict in question, they need to find a compromise as well. Out right banning electronics from school in today’s world is ludicrous.

As to the rights of the persons captured on recording media, get used to it. If you are in a public place you should have NO EXPECTATION of PRIVACY. The majority of a schools premesis (with expceptions of areas designated as private) should be considered public places.

AnonJr (profile) says:

Problem is

Unfortunately you seem to be assuming that the principle started it and/or the student was completely innocent in this and similar cases. I’m not so sure about that.

While I will agree that students with camera phones will help document the problem teachers, I also believe that its too easy to take a portion of a situation out of context and abuse the evidence so to speak.

I love how some issues end up with the majority concluding which party is the victim and which is the victimiser regardless of the full story and/or lack of evidence to come to a reasonable conclusion.

AlGhoul says:

Re: Problem is by AnonJr on Dec 21st, 2007 @ 8:05a

Yeah…see…the article implies a fight took place…which means that student and teacher both swung and hit each other… Now, I don’t know too much about the technicalities, but a teacher hitting a student is a bad teacher (remember, students are just kids…teachers are supposed to be mature adults…and they know the consequences to hitting a student…even in self defense…).

Someone says:


I work at a school district and cellphones are not banned fully. Kids can have them, and keep them on themselves, but if they got caught with them in class they get them taken away. Which i think is completely right to do as cellphones have evolved so much they give the children of today vast possibilities to do both good and bad things with them. Kids get caught cheating (texting a friend for answers) on a test. So for those reasons i can see cell phones not being allowed in the school. I do also think that they can show untruths about what happened. as someone said, what if the student threw the punch and is just going crazy, Of course the person should fight back! But by the time someone got their phone out, they were half way through their fight. If people are worried about how educators are treating their kids and vise versa, as someone said put cameras in the rooms, but i don’t think having cellphones is going to solve any major problems, and it even causes other problems within the school.

just my 2 cents

MikeP (profile) says:

both sides?

Concerning cell phones in the classroom, I’m on both sides of the line. Do cell phones even belong in the classroom? I don’t personally think they do. They are a distraction to the class if they go off and there will always be those who will text and such when they should be paying attention.

If there’s an emergency, I think most classrooms by now have either a phone or intercom system to convey that message to someone. If there’s a home emergency, they can always call the school’s office and have them pull the student out of class. If a student needs to call a parent after school for a pickup or something like that, why not allow phones at the school, but not in the classroom. They can keep it in their locker. At the very least, students should have their phones in silent mode during the class.

Obviously, I do not think it is appropriate for a teacher to hit a student for any reason unless the student was intending bodily harm to someone in the class. A cell phone with video capabilities would be a good tool to record what actually happened. But, the danger with all things like this is that it can often leave out much of the story, or just pick up the second half of what really happened.

Case in point, my uncle is currently subbing at a school for a teacher who was forced to go for hitting a student. What I found out after my initial reaction is that the stupid kid decided to piss on the teacher. If a 17 year old was pissing on me, my initial thoughts for reaction would probably be something along the same lines. I’d probably think better of it a few milliseconds later.

All that being said, maybe if a school is really that bad, they should have cameras in most of the classrooms recording what happens at all times (if they could afford it which is probably not).

AlGhoul says:

Re: both sides? by MikeP on Dec 21st, 2007 @ 8:13a

Are you serious? There’s NO reason a teacher should hit a student… Child abuse (whether a student was pissing on the teacher, or actually hit the teacher) is the first crime the teacher would break once they hit a student…

And what if that student had a mental disorder? Granted, if it was a bad ass kid, then I think they should be sent home, suspended, in-school suspension, or ANY thing else other that striking the kid… What’s that gonna teach? “It’s okay to hit someone who pisses you off”? Or “pisses on you…”? Seriously, that just reinforces negative behavior…

And cell phones belonging in the class rooms are irrelevant… If they aren’t being used, then there isn’t any harm… And some schools actually don’t have fully functional phones/intercom systems in every room (I came from a high school who had classes in the auditorium, which didn’t have an intercom, and where some classrooms didn’t have a (functional) phone… And administrative staff (teachers, principles, secretaries, etc) tend to confiscate any cell phone on school grounds (like in the hallways) during school hours if there’s a “no cell phones in the class” policy (and you can’t record those actions if the phone is being taken away from you…).

Not everything is as black and white as people make it seem (about the cell phones). Hitting a student is as black and white as it seems (it’s against the law…period…child abuse is a federal crime, I believe…and now that I’ve said that, it probably isn’t, lol).

zan (user link) says:

Re: both sides?

If we think of school as kids’ workplace, and the place they’re going to be taught how to behave when they eventually leave school, then your view of phones in the classroom doesn’t make sense.

“Do cell phones belong in the workplace? I don’t personally think they do. They are a distraction to the team if they go off and there will always be those who will text and such when they should be paying attention.”

Better than banning phones (ridiculous), the administration should ban their use during classtimes, much as your boss would ban you from making calls during a meeting.

Barrenwaste says:

I completely disagree....

…with Pat in post #10. Putting camera’s in all public places is NOT the answer. We aren’t just talking Big Brother and invasion of privacy here. Yes, the teacher and principle were very badly in the wrong, however, putting cameras in all public areas will only exacerbate the problems. People need room to breathe, even in public, and the knowledge that every little curse, frown, and gesture will be filmed and used against you will only raise tensions. And when people finally do snap, they will only snap harder. Yes, you will cut down on public crimes, for awhile. But they will rise again in a short time and the amount of crimes done in private places will rise dramatically.

Bob Knight says:

Schools and Video Phones

I grew up and went to an intercity school system, and my parents were both teachers.
So I have an extra special inside view regarding teacher student relationships.
In the past when you acted up you got to go see the Vice Principal, he was the guy that had the paddle, so you got your ass warmed and sent back to class. Learning new things was a bit easier after this.
Today if a student acts up, the teacher gets stabbed and the student is sent home to wander the streets and attend anger management. I think that if a fight between a teacher and a student happens, it’s to a very high probability that the student escalated the situation.
It’s to bad that todays schools spend more time indoctrinating our kids to be good little sheeple, than teaching critical thinking and reason.
Situational ethics at the grade school level create poor thinking kids.

Shalkar says:

Re: Schools and Video Phones

Absolutely…critical thinking skills and the ability to reason are difficult to teach in the home and almost impossible in school. So trying to manage (sheepify) students is all that gets accomplished in most consolidated, overcrowded schools. It would be really hard to strike someone’s child if their parents were your friends/neighbors/spouse’s co-workers as well as hard for a child to act-out that way to an adult friend of their parents—which is what you get if the schools are small and local, not consolidated and overcrowded.
Lastly, technology is evolving faster than I can type this and most students today have a cell. Rules need to be enforced once they are established or else they need discarded and more reasonable/enforceable rules need to be inacted. No usage during tests seems a no-brainer and perhaps that device they use in theatres could be used then.
As far as airing only partial and/or edited content for the purpose of doing harm or resulting in harm to the party recorded…wouldn’t that be liable?

Anonymous Coward says:

awww, but kids have a right to an education. Most schools are not indoctrinating our kids, they are babysitting, because junior doesn’t want to be there but has to be, so he causes problems in the classroom. This screws the other kids who want to learn, but junior has to be there.

Parents who don’t care create poor thinking kids, don’t blame it on the schools. A school in Detroit has parent teacher meetings twice a year (like every other school.) Only 2% of parents actually show up to the meetings. What does that tell you.

I say, if the student doesn’t care and the parent doesn’t care, screw them. Kick them out of school until they ask to return (and commit to doing what they need to do)

Brian says:

Double Standard?

Interesting…the very site and generation that decries and rails against all types of tracking and surveillance against THEM now advocate the full-time monitoring and surveillance of our education professionals. How quaint. You can’t have it both ways. Just wire the classrooms for sight and sound and be done with it–at least it evens the playing field. This younger generation has no compunction against skewing the evidence in their favor or ensuring it’s taken out of context. Instead we should probably look to the parents to control/teach their kids because we sure don’t allow the schools to punish or teach anymore–they’d just get sued. I can’t tell you the amount of respect I have for people who willingly put themselves in the line of fire like that–I’m surprised we still have people who want to be teachers.

Darksurf says:

The Foolish and the Wise.

First off, those of you who defend the principle are foolish. two wrongs don’t make a right, whether or not the principle was provoked doesn’t matter, its the fact he still acted like a moron. Even if it was self-defense if he took it far enough as to make it look like he even hurt the student, that was wrong. You can protect yourself without damaging the other party. Those of you who protect the students’ rights to technology are quite wise, protect the rights, not the students. The rights of the students is what protects them, not us. We can’t do anything by just saying “oh, that poor student”. But by saying technology (such as cell phones) should be allowed in school in moderation (or with rules), does a lot to protect the people.

Schools are getting worse and worse, and more like prison. Its getting sick. The rules are getting more and more retarded, and punishments don’t suit the issues! Don’t punish everyone, punish the individual. My highschool was ridiculous. My principle hated computer and anybody that had anything to do with them. Living in an agricultural area, that made me the only computer geek non-farmer. When computer had problems he blamed me, I’d end up fixing them being nice to the teachers. Then he banned me from the school computers that I wasn’t assigned to (all computers except the one I used in computer class). Then he banned my cdroms, floppy disks, flash drives and everything. He said they may be virus infected and he didn’t trust me. So I started bringing my own damn laptop to school just to be able to do my work! People are power hungry and its getting sickening!

Anonymous Coward says:

Two wrongs don’t make a right? So a student attacks a teacher, fighting back isn’t the right thing to do? Bet you got your ass kicked alot.

I get it, we won’t mind that Iran builds a bomb, thats ok, cause we have one too, right?

Some people have no clue how the real world works or how close they are to having their clueless existance shattered each and every day.

Anonymous Coward says:


I’m sorry to say it, But if that kid just goes off on you and is just crazy to the point of they arean’t going to stop beating on you until your dead, You better do something about it, or that kid is going to kill you. If you say that its wrong to hit a kid for reasons such as this one, there is something totally wrong. As someone said. Parents expect the schools to discipline their kids when they do something wrong, but everything they try to discipline the kids with is either 1. Not a punishment at all (kid doesn’t care) or 2. WAY too much of a punishment and the teacher should be sued. I’ll give you an example. I’m the IT person at a school district, We have the obvious blocks on websites that are deamed “unsuitable” for student eyes. Little Johnny is sitting in the library on a computer and he’s glancing around looking like he’s up to something. I RDP to his computer just to observe what little johnny is doing, He’s on google images lookin at all the wonders of a woman’s body. So i lock his screen, take him to the assistant principle, he bans the kid from the computers for the remainder of the quarter. Next day parents call and say 2 things. 1. How can you let my son see these images, he’s scarred for life. and 2. You can’t ban him from computers its his right as a student. I’m sorry, but its not our fault when little johnny finds out how to get into google preferences and search for “boobs” but according to them it was all our fault. Now how do you discipline that kid? If the parents are saying its his right as a student to use those computers that as tax payers they paid for them. What do you do?

I’ve always said that the newer generations are way too overly sensitive with their children. These kids now a days do anything and everything and get away with it becuase teachers are too afraid to discipline the kids, and parents just don’t care, or if they do they are too concerned about “Little johnny’s Feelings” I grew up and i learned many things about Respect and Hard Work and being dependable. Today’s kids don’t know any of those and never will at the rate parenting is going.

Husband of a teacher says:

Re: Somebody

I generally regard kids and women the same:

1. Hit me once and I’ll ask why you did that.
2. Hit me twice and I’ll warn you not to do it again.
3. Hit me a third time and (if I’m not incapacitated), I’ll do what it takes to make you stop.

Our schools have been incapacitated so much (castrated is a very fitting word) that steps 3, 4, 5, ad infinitum, have all been replaced with step 2.

Teachers are powerless. Principals and Assistant Principals are only slightly less encumbered. And when a school actually does suspend someone, the kid goes home and holes up in his/her room and plays video games all day long or watches TV all day long (which is all they wanted in the first place) because the parents are off forgetting that their kids need _some_ guidance.

The reality of the school life is that my wife loves teaching all of the kids she teaches (middle school). It’s the parents she has the most problems with.

Sean says:

Principal in the wrong?

I don’t know if the principal was in the wrong in this case. How do we know what went on before the camera started rolling or what was cut out. Did the principal even throw a punch or was he just wrestling down a unruly student?

I do agree that there are some teachers/administrators that take it way too far, but they also have to keep control of a large group of kids while trying to teach them.

I do not think that banning cell phones from the school is the way to go, but I think that kids need to learn when it is appropriate to use a cell phone and when it isn’t.

If I were a teacher and caught a student using a cell phone during a test (especially texting) I would confiscate the phone and give the student a big fat 0 on the test with no chance of making it up.

Nicco says:

Maybe students should start removing the video cameras from hallways that many schools now have. Then everyone will be on an even playing field again.

Funny though because when I was in high school 8 years ago cell phones were banned. This was before you could film a movie on one. Also the school had video cameras and mandatory ID’s. To think that this was an upscale suburban high school. Like everything in life its all about control and power. One day students will realize that the power really lies with the 3600 students and not the 200 staff.

Leonard Low (user link) says:

A Professional Perspective

I’ve been a professional educational technologist for almost a decade, and while my work involves the use of all technologies in education, I specialise in the use of mobile devices (such as iPods, PDAs and even mobile phones) as learning aids.

From my perspective, this kind of blanket ban on mobile phones is abysmal. Mobile phones can be used for many educationally sound purposes, such as recording science experiments, documenting progress on a project, listening to audiobooks or recording lectures. Indeed, if they are used in this manner, they can provide a far more personal and rich learning experience for a student than most other learning approaches, due to the very nature of mobile phones, which is to be carried everywhere. Learning can happen literally at any place and at any time.

This blanket ban on mobile phones is educationally and philosophically short-sighted. It is akin to banning the use of all computers at school due to an incident there a computer was used in a way that made the school principal look bad.

From a professional educator’s point of view, the biggest issue here is the reprehensible conduct of the school principal, in direct breach of his duty of care – not the filming of that conduct. The school board’s subsequent actions almost suggest that it’s okay to do something wrong as long as it’s not documented. I believe students should be encouraged to speak out if they have been subjected to abuse, and to document those issues. Any other policy leaves the door open for inappropriate physical or sexual behaviour by staff or fellow students to go unreported or undocumented.

Educational Technologist, Canberra Institute of Technology
Lead Researcher, Australian Standards for M-Learning

Author of The Mobile Learning Blog

Anonymous Coward says:

If you read the article, cell phones were already banned.

All these “education” experts popping off. Everyone knows our educational institution is broken, why would we want to hear from the education experts that broke it in the first place?

Here is a novel approach. If there are kids that don’t want to be in the classroom and are disruptive to others that do want to be there, kick them the fuck out.

Don’t make my kid suffer because yours is a waste of sperm and will end up in prison anyway.

David Hamilton says:

Not Enough Information!

Administrators and teachers are allowed to use physical force in a school setting to prevent students from fighting and to protect students from danger. It is very irresponsible for a person to post a blog about an educator fighting with a student without giving the full details. Educators in this day and age know they cannot even touch a student, no less be involved in an altercation. Dollars to donuts…..the principal in question was simply trying to prevent or breaking up a fight.

Matthew Thomas (user link) says:

Sued by a dirty look

If you believe that a great portion of the public education personnel is apt to secumb to physical aggression, then there is certainly need for a way to spot that. However, I tend to believe that this is not the case. That most education professionals can keep their cool when dealing with a pimple infested anti-christ.
The issue with phones is that their ever increasing host of features has become a distraction from the intended focus of daily education. And in todays letigious society, what is to keep a verbal altercation from being recorded then submitted as evidence in some lame suit by a student. I can see the docket sheet now.

Teeny Bopper vs. State Education System

Plaintiff Claim:
“My fragile sense of self esteem was damaged by Joe Teacher when they outed by desire to text my friend SuzyBob during class. Their raised voice and stern facial expression caused years of damage that I may never recover from. Fortunently, every damn kid in my class whipped out their iPhones and promptly uploaded the disciplining to youtube for use in this suit”

Two things should change:
1) Take away the toys. Phones have become an important asset with respect to safety but education must take precident.
2) These kids are stir crazy in an instant gratification society. Evolve the education system to accomodate for this.

rick says:

cell phones vs. camera

Forget the phones…if you want to stop inappropriate behaviors just put cameras in the rooms and hallways. THIS stops the unwanted behaviors and provides documentation. My son was in a fight at his school and ALL the students said he started it so they suspended him. My wife went up to the school and asked for video proof. The cameras showed a different story. They apologized for the accusation that he “started” the fight but said he was still suspended because he defended himself (by fighting back). Worst yet they did not do a thing to all the students who lied about my son starting the fight. They just swept it under the carpet like it never happened. So camera are helpful and would serve a better deterent for unwanted behaviors.

joe says:

its sounds like the person that wrote this article is a kid at one of the schools and he had his phone taken away so now he is bitter trying to start the cell phone revolution cell phones dont belong in the classroom leave them in your purse or bookbag until the last bell rings and then turn it back on thats it you are not going to uncover some dark brutal teachers society by allowing kids to have cell phones in class in all actuality you are going to cause our country to drop even further down the educational ladder since none of the student will be paying attention because they will be texting of getting the newest ringtone

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