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Fla. Teacher Suspended for Jamming Students’ Cellphone Signals

By Ross Brenneman — June 04, 2015 1 min read
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Classroom technology: Ever a headache.

According to Tampa Bay news station WTSP, science teacher Dean Liptak, of Pasco County, Fla., got fed up with students using their cellphones in class in violation of school policy. But rather than continue to wade through the bureaucracy that comes with disciplining students for their minor misbehavior, he opted for a more proactive approach: buying a cellphone signal jammer.

“It is counterproductive to stop instruction and lose academic focus when I have to tell a student to put his or her cellphone away,” Liptak wrote in a published statement after news of his actions spread.

His plan worked, but a little too well. According to WTSP, Verizon discovered the signal jamming and contacted the school, because such jamming is bad for business and a violation of federal law, according to the Federal Communications Commission. According to Liptak’s letter, the teacher conferred with both a deputy and a sergeant on the local police force beforehand, who said his plan was legal (again, it’s not) so long as it wasn’t being used to target an individual maliciously. They also advised him to have access to a secure, uninterrupted landline in the event of an emergency, which Liptak said he did. (So there’s that.) The only person he didn’t talk to, he said, was a school administrator.

The incident occurred over a period of several days at the end of March, but the superintendent’s discipline recommendations didn’t come before the school board until Tuesday.

Verizon declined to press charges, but Liptak will still be serving a five-day unpaid suspension, for this and for previous incidents, according to the district. That’s a good story too: In 2013, Liptak earned a small measure of notoriety for writing some questionable worksheet items, including one that asked students this: “A northbound car with a velocity of 100 m/s ran over a baby with a momentum of 800 kg m/s, what is the mass of the car?”

Science is fun!

How do schools manage cellphone use in class? See also:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.