Principal refuses to give teen's iPhone 6 to dad, offers flip phone instead

Technically Incorrect: A YouTube video shows a spirited argument between a parent and a Philadelphia school principal. It also shows the problems of tech in schools.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

The principal says, "That's our policy. Sorry that we took it. And she can get it back in a few weeks." WORLDSTARVIDZ/YouTube; screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Kids can be annoying.

Kids in school can be very annoying, especially when, like most of the world's adults, they're paying attention only to their phones.

Schools are now in the habit of confiscating these phones. This sometimes leads to differences of opinion with the kids and even their parents.

A YouTube video has emerged of a parent demanding that a school principal return his daughter's iPhone 6, which had apparently been taken away for disciplinary reasons.

The father films while he insists that the phone should be given back to him. The school principal, who identifies herself on camera as Linda M. Carroll, refuses. She says he can get it back in a few weeks. She says this is a school rule. She does, though, offer the dad a flip phone so that he can contact his daughter in emergencies.

The video mentions Philadelphia. A search tells me that Carroll is the principal at Northeast High School. She stands her ground, while being supported by members of school security.

The dad, however, cannot understand why he can't have his property back. Some might feel he shows a lack of thoroughness by saying he isn't interested in seeing the school rule, according to which Carroll claims she can keep the phone for weeks.

On the other hand, the idea that a school can keep a parent's property for what seems like an indeterminate amount of time seems a little presumptive.

I have contacted Carroll to ask whether she can enlighten the wider world. I asked whether the matter has now been resolved.

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Raven Hill, a spokeswoman for the School District of Philadelphia, told me: "According to the Northeast High School student handbook, which every student receives at the beginning of the school year, all confiscated cell phones, cameras, electronic and other telephonic devices will be returned at the end of each academic quarter. There are no exceptions. In this case, the end of the marking period is in two weeks."

Hill added: "It is against state law to record a person without obtaining consent." On the footage, it seems as if Carroll identifies herself to camera. Hill contends this was not the case. She said: "She identified herself to the parent. She was not aware of the video recorder. A police report has been filed."

Almost 180,000 people have already watched the video, which might suggest increasing virality.

Should schools have the right to confiscate phones at their own discretion and according to their own timetable? Carroll tries to explain to the dad that he has his own rules at home but when his daughter is in school, she must abide by a different set of requirements.

The dad, though, says: "You'll give me a flip phone that you paid for, but you won't give me my property that I paid for?"

It would be instructive to know whether this was a first-time incident or whether the issue had been brewing for a while.

One wonders why the principal and parent couldn't apparently come to a happy arrangement -- just as one wonders why a schoolkid needs an iPhone 6.