TAMPA — Students, consider this your warning: Beginning the first day of school, that cell phone better be off and out of sight — or else.
Parents, listen up, too. No one is going to excuse your kid for texting in class when you sent the first message.
"We see it, we take it" is the new mantra when it comes to cell phones and other electronic devices when schools are in session in Hillsborough.
That includes lunch. No exceptions once the first bell rings.
"We're going to have to be really clear that this is a rule that applies to every student, every day, every time you walk onto campus," School Board member Candy Olson said.
School officials know they aren't going to win a popularity contest by cracking down on the palm-sized distractions. Never mind the escalating concerns about cheating, or the inappropriate use of photos. The tough stance is unlikely to make many students and parents happy.
Assistant superintendent for administration Lewis Brinson already has received e-mails from parents complaining that the rule amounts to a violation of their constitutional rights. (For the record, school officials say the phones in the front office are there for a reason. Parents who need to contact their children should use them.)
"The parents are the ones who are not hearing this message right now," School Board Chairwoman Jennifer Faliero said. "We have more education to do."
Under the new procedures, teachers are expected to confiscate cell phones when they see them. The device must be stored securely, and handed over to an administrator who will return it at the end of the day.
Brinson said the district in the past has made good on cell phones that go missing. He expects the district would continue to do so, noting that teachers must be careful with the increasingly expensive gadgets.
As for the student who has mastered the art of texting blind, with a hand on the phone in her pocket: "If they can see the text coming back, we're going to have to speak to the student," Brinson said.