B.C. principal unplugs illegal cellphone jammer
A high school principal in British Columbia tried a novel, but in the end illegal, mechanism for cutting down on cellphone use that was proving to be disruptive in the classroom: a signal jammer.
However, after a couple of days of puzzling over why they weren't getting a signal on their phones while in school, the students figured a jammer was in place and discovered that the devices were illegal under the Radio Communications Act.
That forced the principal to pull the plug.
Principal Steve Gray of Port Hardy Secondary School on Vancouver Island, who bought the jammer from an online dealer in China, said he had to try something given that kids were still using their phones despite a cellphone ban at the school.
"It was a constant classroom management issue," Gray said Wednesday on Canada AM. "There are always some cellphones being confiscated from students because they're using them in class."
While the experiment was short-lived, the controversy speaks to the growing problem in schools, particularly high schools, of rampant cellphone use during class time.
Mary-Lou Donnelly, president of the Canadian Teachers' Federation, said the fact that Gray tried using a signal jammer speaks to the severity of the problem and the desperation principals and administrators feel.
"As an educator, it is an annoyance. It's a real issue and it's a challenge to manage in the schools," Donnelly told Canada AM.
Donnelly points out while many kids use their cellphones to communicate with their friends, parents also like knowing that they can reach their children during the school day.
So the issue is not only about educating children on the appropriate use of cellphones and other technological devices, but also about making sure parents understand the rules at their child's school, she said.
Donnelly also points out that controlling the devices is important because they can be a mechanism for everything from cyber bullying to passing around answers to a test.
"So it's not just about receiving a phone call," Donnelly said. "It goes from a phone call to cheating, to organizing a fight at the pit, to taking pictures, to posting those pictures on YouTube and Facebook and things like that. So it's a really huge issue."