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Culture

Science teacher suspended for using jammer to shut up students' cell phones

Technically Incorrect: In Florida, a science teacher decides that quiet in the classroom should involve a little technical chicanery. Verizon is allegedly not pleased.

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


liptak.jpg
A science teacher takes a jamming session a little too far. WTSP-TV screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Standing up for civility is sometimes as hard as standing up for science.

When you try and do both at once, you might have to take the law into your own hands.

Some might, therefore, experience a tinge of twisted sympathy for Dean Liptak. He's a science teacher at Fivay High School in Hudson, Florida.

For five days, he won't be a science teacher. He's been suspended because he got a little tired of his students using their cell phones in class.

This is a national and international problem. Kids use their gadget crutches just as much as adults do. And there seems little you can do to stop them.

So Liptak thought he'd merely jam them. As WTSP-TV reports, he availed himself of a jamming device and peace suddenly descended on this classroom. Well, relative peace.


It may well be that Liptak's grasp of science is better than his grasp of modern technology. He reportedly believed that the jammer would only affect his classroom. He allegedly said that he even talked to a law enforcement officer who told him that jammers were only illegal if used with unpleasant intentions.

This isn't quite so.

Pasco County School District Spokeswoman Linda Cobbe told WTSP-TV: "Verizon had come to the school saying someone had a jamming device, because the cell phone service was being interrupted in the area."

I contacted Verizon -- which reportedly doesn't intend to take legal action. A company spokesman told me that Verizon "respectfully declines to comment."

And then there's the small matter that these jammers are simply illegal in the US.

Just one year ago, the Federal Communications Commission fined a man $48,000. His alleged offense? He kept a jammer in his car for 18-24 months, because he didn't like drivers using their cell phones. Oddly enough, this happened in Florida too, not so far from Liptak's school.

Liptak was suspended without pay for five days. (This was his second strike with the school district, according to WTSP. He had been reprimanded in 2013 for putting violent questions on a test paper.)

And, of course, parents suggested that what he did was terrible because, for example, what if there had been a gunman at the school?

But how can schools calm the use of cell phones? One Philadelphia head teacher tried to explain to a parent recently that her school simply takes the phones away from kids who won't stop using them and keeps them for a number of weeks. The parent wasn't impressed.

Some believe that teaching kids not to use phones in class is simply a matter of teaching them respect. But when they see their parents using them at the dinner table, walking down the street and even driving, what are kids supposed to think?

I wonder what Liptak's first class back from suspension will be like. Very quiet, I'm sure.

Update, 1.55 p.m. PT: With response from Verizon.