Schoolkids pay to store cell phones in "valet" trucks

Some NYC students not permitted to bring their phones or other gadgets to school shell out $1/day at "valet" trucks like the "Pure Loyalty Electronic Device Storage" vehicle and other similarly converted vans. From the AP:


Cellphones and other devices, such as iPods and iPads, are banned in all New York City public schools, but the rule is widely ignored except in the 88 buildings that have metal detectors. Administrators at schools without detectors tell students, “If we don’t see it, we don’t know about it...”

The trucks that collect the cellphones have their own safety issues — one was held up in the Bronx in June, and some 200 students lost their phones.

"A phone away from home: Some NYC students pay private ‘valets’ a dollar a day" (via Dave Pell's NextDraft)


      1. Just for the phones. They provide lockers don’t they? 

        Anyway, no amount of talk about phones is change anything when we live in a world that has metal detectors on it’s schools. 

    1. They might not all be going straight home after school.

      Plus, say they’re taking the bus to school and back. That’s the prime time they’d want their phone right there, I think.

  1. I guess nobody in the NYC public schools has heard of BYOD or anything new about education since about 1995.

    1. BYOD is going to be a Nightmare for schools, because nobody is willing to provide the funding to have an actual solution

  2. Back in my day, we had this problem, but with pagers. My school on the S.W. side of Chicago would sometimes do random metal detector screenings and people who had pagers on them would pass them back and someone in the back of the line would collect them and then hide them. Some people would slide them under the pop vending machines in a pinch. 

  3. I teach in an NYC school where the administrators say, “If we don’t see it, we don’t know about it…”  Of couse they don’t see it.  They aren’t in the classroom.  We teachers have to police the situation and when we catch a kid, the administrative response is, “Call the parent.”  You can guess how effective that is as a solution.  

    Personally, I have no problem with the trucks.  Just see it as part of the cost of owning a phone.  Our school is small and we don’t have the available staff that would be required to operate an on-site storage system.  And why should the taxpayers foot the bill anyway?  A phone or iPod is something the students choose to carry.  It’s not a part of their education, it’s a social and entertainment device. Schools shouldn’t have to use their shrinking budgets to provide additional convenience for this luxury.

    1. And how do you propose that a student communicate with his or her parents in the event that they’re not coming home at the expected time or need some help? Or is that notyrprob?

      1. Students in my school can use a phone in their guidance counselor’s office or in the attendance office if they need to reach home during school hours or after  (the building stays open for a couple of hours after school).   If a kid needs to call their folks after they have left school because they are going somewhere besides home, no, that isn’t my prob.  Or the school’s prob.  If they attend a school with storage trucks outside, doesn’t that solve the problem anyway?

        Many of us survived our school years without having a phone in our pocket.  It’s still possible, especially in NYC where pay phones remain common.

        1. Many of us survived our school years without having a phone in our pocket.

          That was in the past, before having a cellphone became a basic assumption of survival.

          1.  Agreed!  While not an absolute necessity, a cell phone simply makes life easier for the parent/kid when it comes time for a pickup/go to friends house/sports practice cancelled/etc.  Why not just let the teacher confiscate unproductive use of electronic devices and return them after class.  I’m not really sure what the big deal is.

      2.  I can think of several ways that were implemented before cell phones. Let me list them for you.

        1: Pay phone
        2: Office phone (in the event that there is no pay phone available)
        3: Plan ahead and inform parents the evening before

        1. 1. Hard to find now that everyone has a cell phone.
          2. Probably a health and safety violation to allow a student to use the office phone.
          3. Shit happens. And if you think that children are capable of perfect advance planning, I advise you to use effective contraception.

          1. Why don’t you just plant an RFID chip in them? People who are unable/incapable of teaching their kids advance planning should not be having children.

            Are you and others such slaves to technology?

            First world problems indeed.

          2. People who are unable/incapable of teaching their kids advance planning should not be having children.

            People who think that you can program a child like a computer have some serious surprises ahead.

          3. “You’re the one making a big deal out of electronic leashes. Frankly I feel kids having cell phones is beyond frivolous.

            I bet this makes your skin crawl, take a deep breath.
            “Mom Let’s Son, 9, Ride Subway Alone””
            Frivolous? Do you have a cell phone? Do you have a land line at home? For instance in my country land lines are more or less gone in most most homes.

            And what on earth has the first to do with the second? I would not let my daughter do something like that… unless she had a cell phone (which my 9yo has). In my country 7yo take the public buss, alone, to school… and yes, parents want them to carry a cell phone. Does that make _your_ skin crawl?

      3. My school was built around 2000, and they had banks of payphones around the campus, but the problem was on a good day like two out of five worked, and most of them around the gym had the headsets ripped off because the footballers did that as a show of strength. So if it was after hours you had to walk a few blocks to the business district or hope to god one of the janitors would let you borrow their cell phones if you could find them.

        Ps fuck payphones.

        1. The world was set up differently in the 1960s. There’s no comparison.

          And, no, I will not get off your lawn.

          1. Well if you won’t get off my lawn, I shall call the police! Now where did I leave my cell phone? Oh no! The last building I was in wouldn’t allow me to take it inside so I had to pay some guy $1 to hang onto it. And then he wasn’t there when I came out of the building. I guess I’m stuck with you on my lawn.

          2.  Exactly, I went to elementary school in the 60s.  I walked something like 15 blocks to that damn school.  Now every kid is chauffeur driven, usually by a mom wearing sweatpants in a minivan with 18 cupholders and that cool remote control sliding door…but I digress.
            The difference is I was walking to school, many times alone, in a big city and I was 9.  Where I live most parents would be horrified to hear that their kid was anywhere near the real world without “supervision”.

    2. Or just let them have their phones? In my country more or less every kid carries a phone (heck, even the contact information sheet that the school asks parents to fill in every year comes with a space to fill in the kid’s mobile phone number), they just cannot be used in school. Not allowing phones in school at all seems just so… old fashioned, and it would cause quite a storm from upset parents here.

    3. I spoke to my wife about this post this morning – she is a science teacher in one of our underfunded state secondary schools and her attitude is the same. Anything that takes the cost burden off the school is good. But the problem of students using mobile devices in class is epidemic here…

      Quite aside from the distraction – as my wife puts it, why would they pay attention to some intense bit of science when Facebook is more fun (in their minds) – there is the safety issue as well.

      Cyber-bullying and the threat of publicly posting out-of-context class-room incidents in order to embarrass teachers is a major concern. Teachers at my wife’s school have asked for signal blockers to be installed but the cost is prohibitive.

      Students flout school rules about carrying phones and threatened confiscation by hiding phones down intimate items of clothing – thus denying the teacher the ability to remove the items because of threat of charges of ‘abuse’ or invasion of privacy…Yes, teenagers are that manipulative! :)

      1. Of course they are.  Weren’t you?

        But I would think a cell phone jammer would be a super-simple maker project. and I believe they’re legal.  They might cost $200 retail, but her colleague in the computer lab might be able to cobble one together for a few bucks – ask!

        1. They are not legal outside of the prison system. But then school is nearly as controlling isn’t it?

    4. I live in the UK, where such a manufactured problem and ridiculously clumsy solution would be instantly rejected with incredulity.

      I wouldn’t want my children not to be able to contact me in the event of a personal difficulty. I certainly wouldn’t want them to have to negotiate with school administrative staff for use of a fixed-line telephone in an emergency. Control of the channels of communication is an unwarranted imposition on personal liberty. We’ve already seen many cases where abuses of authority or bullying have been caught on mobile phone cameras. Think it’s OK for schools to be immune from souveillance? Because there are never any abuses of authority or bullying there, right?

      And what’s wrong with saying “turn off your cellphones during class time”? Why the broad and absolute interdiction on portable personal computing devices anywhere in what is supposed to be an *educational* environment?

      Just Wow.

      1. “Why the broad and absolute interdiction on portable personal computing devices anywhere in what is supposed to be an *educational* environment?”

        What does their personal computing device have to do with the educational environment? There are multiple computers in almost every classroom these days for educational use.
        I’m thinking you’re not a teacher. I’ve worked in a classroom and expecting children not to play with their phone the minute your back is turned (to, say, write on the board) is the height of naivety. If there’s an *actual* emergency, the school contacts parents anyway. If the emergency is “I need to go to my bff’s house and I won’t be home for dinner” that is, frankly, not the school’s problem when they have bigger concerns like safety (distracted kids are not safe, to say nothing of bullying and kids’ nicking each other’s stuff) and effective education. I used to have to plan ahead for the next day a mere 10 years ago (yep, I’m under 30 and I use Facebook and my mobile phone all the time), and I’ve yet to see evidence the kids I worked with can’t do the same. Or, they can use a payphone! Which, contrary to popular belief do still exist. Most schools have one available, and if it’s not working, ‘negotiating’ to use the office’s phone is usually a very simple matter of “I need to make a call and the payphone’s not working” – reply: “Ok, keep it short and maybe put 10p in the pot”. If money’s a concern, buy them a phone card to keep in their wallet. 

        1. “when they have bigger concerns like safety (distracted kids are not safe”
          What? No seriously, could you explain that? Kids don’t need phones to be distracted, and what on earth has it to do with safety. I thought parents in the US are seriously anal when it comes to “safety” (which in my opinion often doesn’t have anything to do with real safety but just a lot “what if”s), but now schools??? Do you have helicopter schools there now, too?

          And don’t count on those pay phones being there for long. I don’t think I have seen a pay phone in… um… it must be over 10 years already.

        2. > What does their personal computing device have to do with the educational environment?

          > If the emergency is “I need to go to my bff’s house and I won’t be home for dinner” that is, frankly, not the school’s problem

          > I’ve worked in a classroom and expecting children not to play with their phone the minute your back is turned (to, say, write on the board) is the height of naivety.

          > I’m thinking you’re not a teacher

          I have nothing else to add.

      2. I’m also assuming your children are allowed to come and go as they please and decide whether or not to attend class? Denying them that would also be an “unwarranted imposition on personal liberty” surely? 

        Schools in the UK (where I also live and always have done) have this little thing going on called ‘in loco parentis’ whereby they have the responsibility over the kids while the kids are there. They make the rules that make most sense for them to do the job of educating effectively and keep everyone safe. Saying they can’t actually put in rules to control the children they are legally responsible for looking after is rather counter-productive. Most schools here ban mobile phones or confiscate them if they aren’t turned off during school hours (happens a lot). Having to confiscate a lot of phones takes up resources though, which could be better used actually educating the students.

        As for recording teacher/authority bullying, there’s CCTV on site that can usually do that. If not, then there’s witnesses who can corroborate the story. That’s good enough for the police.

        Don’t like it? Send your kids to a school with policies you like better (it’ll cost you, if you can find one) or home school them. Teaching’s not as easy as you seem to think it is.

      3. Ha ha ha ha. Yes. In the UK (and Chicago) you could just watch your kid on CCTV all day and *know* what was going on.

        Internet tough guy for personal liberty!

  4. I think it’s a brilliant idea for a small business, except the getting robbed part.  Hope the guy had beaucoups insurance!

  5. My school was strict (often in the wrong ways) but I’m glad there never was a metal detector. I’d probably wear boots with steel toe caps just to be a contrarian teen to hold up the line.

  6. I like my wife’s school in Boston’s approach: if a cell phone rings or is visible during class, it’s gone for a month. A month. No exceptions.*

    Kids are allowed to bring cell phones into school and leave them in their lockers, but are not allowed to have them during class.

    This pretty much stops all cell phone usage during class. Occasionally a kid will forget and their phone will ring in their pockets, and they’ll just sigh and hand it over.

    *(No, the teachers are not robots. If there really were a real exception they wouldn’t blindly follow the rule. For the most part they do, though, and they’re classrooms are much better for it.)

    1. How is that not theft? Sure, cell phones in school are a problem that takes some work, and likely, some creativity, in order to address. But where does the legal authority to take something from someone against their will and keep it come from? I could see taking it away until the end of the day, but after classes are over, kids are no longer in the school’s domain.

      1. If a school confiscates a knife or a spray can then you could call that theft too, but we usually let a school do that if that’s their policy.

        The kids and the parents both know the rules, and they still choose to attend (the school is an extremely well-performing charter school, but the kids could always opt to go to a regular public school instead).

        1. I’m not asking if it’s generally accepted.  It may be.  I’m asking whether it meets the legal definition of theft, and if not, where the legal authority that makes it not-theft comes from, either in statute or case law?  Knives and spray cans are not acceptable comparisons: they are often banned by ordinance, as opposed to the policy of an administrator. I would expect there to be a legal difference between seizure of property that is illegal and seizure of property which is simply unwanted. It is established in law that school officials act as representatives of the State, not merely as surrogates for the parents.

          1. If you know that it is established in law that school officials stand as representatives of the state AND in loco parentis (but see Tinker), then you are just trolling and already know the answer. If you don’t know that you are trolling by saying you know the answer. In either case, trolling.

          2. Actually, I was looking for a legitimate reference to statute or case law about the seizure of personal property and holding it beyond the end of the day. Just like I said. Seems sort of unfair for you to shoot me down just for asking. I investigated it some on my own, nonetheless. For the curious, Price v. NYC Board of Education and Koch v. Adams are both worth reading.

      2. It’s not theft because the kid consents to it. If they don’t turn the phone over I am betting they get to stay home (suspension) for a while.

          1. “School rules” have much broader latitude before they are “duress” than other situations. I cannot honestly believe that it is anything but trolling to think that schools can’t or shouldn’t regulate the behavior of the kids they are standing in loco parentis to.

  7. I wonder if we’re going to see cellphone companies start designing heavily ceramic based cellphones.

    1. That don’t ring or have Facebook. Because that’s the problem. Not the metal being in a classroom, but the distractions.

    1. New Yorkers. I have seen these trucks and the kids lined up outside of them. I don’t get a strong sense of financial hardship from the kids.

    2. Family plan each kid generally costs 10 bucks.  Some kids now just text from ipods on the schools wifi network.  There are pay by the minute phones out there where you can get a $25 card and the credit lasts for a year.  

  8. and when one of those kids dies, or suffers needlessly because they didn’t have their phone, during an in school psycho attack or on the way home, who is responsible?

    communication is a right, we need to teach kids responsibility not police them. All this is doing is training them to beat the police state’s draconian crap all the while teaching them to live within authoritarian frames.

    1. The psycho will be responsible. And the phone will not save the kid.

      Communication at all times in all situations is absolutely not a right. It is not infringing your rights when you can’t get a cell signal. That’s just ridiculous.

  9. WTF? Seriously, New York, it’s the 21st century now. Stop living in the past. Everyone carries portable electronics now. To me this sounds like one of those clueless rules middle-aged adults make when they’re oblivious to the world kids actually live in today.

  10. Here in the schools I work in.  If we banned cell phones the parents would shout bloody murder, and probably remove the entire school board in one stroke.  Yes if we see or here a phone in the classroom its gone.  But its amazing how quickly that stops being a problem when smart teachers with a sense of humor grabs and answers a students phone.  

    Parents want access to there kids and that want is starting to include elementary students, phones have satellite tracking and are commonly locked down so only a few numbers can be dialed by little ones from the phone.

    We had a cell phone ban at one time.  Then there was an earthquake and within 30 seconds every kid in the school whipped out a cell phone and checked in.  Policy was changed to mirror reality.

  11. This is a silly ban.  Ban includes mp3 players too apparently.  Odd form of puritanism.  Banning their use in class would seem to be sufficient.  Most kids have wildly obnoxious if not downright vulgar ring tones and most aren’t bright enough to turn them off to judge by the background noise in most movie theatres.

    An observant teacher ought to be able to spot someone using their phone as a web browser during tests or wearing headphones.

  12. Schools with metal detectors are pretty much as a rule the most underperforming/underfunded with the poorest student body. These kids don’t go to soccer or ballet class after school, they go to work. They also usually don’t have a laptop, or a desktop, their phones are their only way to go online. I’m sure they could find better things to do with their time or money, but I don’t think that’s anybody’s business.

  13. Man, this is weird logic.  You have a problem with kids using phones, OK, but this is like banning clothes because you don’t like the fashionable colours this season.  I’m loath to point fingers at teachers and say “If you’re trusted and qualified to act in loco parentis, you should be able to cope with phones in class” when I don’t know the conditions in these classrooms, but I must admit that was my first reaction.  Then again, it may be a school rule or may come from the local government, but whoever is behind it, it’s just pathetic that it got to this point.

    Hasn’t it occurred to anyone that the more and harder you try to prohibit something, the more kids want to do it?  It’s demonstrably true of any form of media you care to mention, it’s true of smoking and cannabis (and plenty of other drugs, sometimes) and it’s true of using phones in class.  It only takes one teacher overreacting to phone use, and boom, using a phone in class and getting away with it is the newest way to be cool.  Oh, and it’s a great way to make your students detest you and want to find other ways to disrupt things. 

    Why is it not acceptable for a teacher to say “I don’t want phones in here.  If you use them instead of doing what you’re supposed to, you’ll fail your tests and it will be your fault” and actually let that follow through?  It is not needful for children to be made unable to fail, in fact it’s massively counterproductive. Kids have to learn some things the hard way.  School should provide an environment where this can happen without too much bad stuff happening as a consequence.

    My university has an exam policy of requiring students to switch off their phones completely and put them on the desk in plain sight.  This is easy to explain, easy to enforce, difficult to abuse/game, completely free to implement and makes you look less like an authoritarian idiot to your students, particularly if you explain why you’re doing it.  Oh, and it means students don’t have to pay shady vans to hold their phones (are the drivers vetted?  Forcing kids to leave their primary communication devices with them doesn’t seem remotely safe from an information security perspective).

    Just confiscate bothersome phones.  It works in any number of places, many quoted in comments above.  It’s not hard.  It uses no resources at all to pick up a phone and put it in your desk.

  14. I used to work at a K-12 (in Ohio) that specialized in behavioral handicaps, mental health issues, and learning disabilities, after I had graduated from the same school.

    They had an electronic devices (cell phones, cassette/CD/MP3 players, portable game consoles, etc., etc.) ban, because they found two problems with electronic devices – they were a theft target among the students, and they were a massive distraction (combined with students who were unable to manage the distraction) – but dealt with it a little differently.

    No metal detectors anywhere, for starters.

    When you walked in, a staff member would ask every student for their electronic devices, and would put them in a locked cabinet, with the student’s name on it. (When I was a student there, they just tossed them all in a bin, and worked on the honor system. Annoyingly, the teachers knew I had a phone, even though I knew to shut the thing off or at least put it on vibrate, so some made me put it in there. End result, my phone was stolen. One check from the school later to replace the phone, I flaunted the policy, and the teachers backed down when I pointed out how insecure the system was. By the time they fixed the system, I wasn’t a student any more.)

    If you did have an electronic device, and didn’t turn it in… if teachers knew you had it, it depended on the teacher. Some teachers didn’t care, as long as you kept it secure and it wasn’t a distraction to yourself or others (the less trouble you caused overall, the more likely that teachers wouldn’t care). Some would send you back to the locked cabinet if they knew you had it with you. If it wasn’t secured, or it was a distraction to yourself or others, the teacher would keep it from you, and either return it at the end of the school year or when your parents would pick it up.

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