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Schools Can’t Jam Cell Phone Signals: It’s Illegal

August 5, 2009
Should We Ban Mobile Phones in Classrooms?
Image by In Veritas Lux via Flickr

Some schools have talked about installing systems that jam cell phone signals because, get this, students would rather text their friends than pay attention in class.  I know that our local school system has talked about enacting the same type of plan, but here’s a little wrinkle that rarely makes it to the headlines:  it’s illegal to install something that jams cell phone signals, just like it’s illegal to block an exit door or not provide enough of them in case of emergencies.

Hmm, guess it’s not too big of a surprise that St. Ansgar in Iowa didn’t figure out the legalities of this type of situation right away, and they passed a motion to allow the scrambling system be installed. I have heard of our local Catholic school demanding that cell phones be handed in, and in our local high school district, the public school “confiscates” cell phones for months at a time.  As far as I know, a public entity related to governmental funding, such as a school, can’t legally confiscate personal property unless it provides a direct threat to other personnel (say if the phone was used to make a threat, or conceal a weapon); however, the district states on its own merits that this is legal.  Really, seizing personal property on school grounds is not legal, but this local school district does it anyway.

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