Cell Phone Fines Mean Big Bucks for Some Texas School Districts

By: Christine Haas, 11 News Email
By: Christine Haas, 11 News Email

It's all because of students being fined for texting or chatting in the classroom.
The Texas education code lets schools fine students for violating cell phone polices.
Lanier Middle School student Alisa Martinez learned that lesson the hard way. She knew she was supposed to keep her phone in her locker, but she didn't follow the rule.

"She asked me if my phone is in there and I said yes and I had to take it to the administrator and he kind of had an attitude, and he said you know you have to pay $15 dollars and I was like, yes", Martinez said.

So, her quick-texting fingers were paralyzed until her Mom paid the $15 fine and got the phone back.
It's a sign of the hi-tech times, and some schools are cashing in.
An open records search of school districts in the Houston area reveals Klein ISD collected the most money in cell phone fines. It collected $100,948 in just over two school years.

Klein ISD spokesperson Trazanna Moreno said the money is used to reward honor roll students for making good grades, maybe even a pizza party for a classroom that has done exceptionally well.

But that's a lot of pizza, considering Klein Oak High School alone took in over $17,000.
We couldn't find that kind of revenue collection at other school districts.
For example, Montgomery ISD took in less than $2,500 in the same time period.

But maybe the most surprising information came from Magnolia ISD. A spokesperson provided a written statement, revealing he "can't determine the exact amount of money" the district has collected in cell phone fees. He says Magnolia has "no specific device in place" to monitor what's collected or how it's spent.

There was a similar absence of accounting in HISD. The district could not say how much it has collected, stating it's done on a school-by-school basis.

And maybe that's not unusual, because according to the state education code, districts are allowed to set their own rules and are not required to keep track of the money.

Martinez said she sees a student get their phone taken away about once a day. But she believes confiscating cell phones helps keep kids concentrating on education.

Still, she admits her phone is never too far away.
"I can't live without my phone," Martinez said.

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