Mama don’t take my smartphone away

So the assertion by the editor of the TES is that because students have used them to take upskirt photos of teachers (and, presumably, students) mobile phones should be banned from schools.

Any proposed solution to a problem can be looked at through a number of different lenses. Is it cost effective? Does it interfere with other activities? Is the solution legal? Moral?

But first it has to pass through a simple hoop.

Will the proposed solution solve the identified problem?

So, will banning mobile phones from school prevent students taking upskirt photos? Clearly the answer is no, it won’t.

Firstly, as Jim Knight MP stated in his response to the editorial (which was also carried in the TES) there are plenty of other devices available that could be used for this purpose. These are available very cheaply and no doubt many students (or their parents) already have such devices at home. Many of these devices are not obviously cameras and so any rule barring such devices would have to be fairly widely drawn.

But that’s not the major impediment to the proposal working.

Just this week my daughter came home from college with the (to her) rather exciting news that the police had been in all day and that someone had been stabbed in the college. This was true. A student brought a knife onto the premises and stabbed another student. Now, I’ve checked the rules of the college and yes, they specifically prohibit the carrying of knives on the premises. NEWS FLASH. Students who are going to do bad things tend to be the ones who disobey the rules. By definition.

Without detector arches and close body pat-downs the effective banning of objects from school premises is an impossibility. What we rely on is self-policing by the students.

The only time as a teacher we found a knife on a student was because another student alerted us to it. The student with the knife had shown it around and, exactly as I might expect, we were told about it. The students did that because they recognised the real dangers (for us, for them, for the student with the knife) if it wasn’t found. It wasn’t a goody two-shoes who grassed, it was one of knife-boys mates, one of his crowd.

I’d venture to guess that if knife-boy were in fact smartphone-boy none of his mates would alert the staff to the fact he had a smartphone about his person.

Simply put, if someone wants to bring a smartphone into school, they will. A ban will stop those who would use these devices appropriately from benefiting from them whilst doing little to prevent those who would use them nefariously. A student who is prepared to hold his phone and film up a teachers skirt and post the video on the internet is not going to be stopped by a few words in a policy.

I’m not a believer that technology is completely neutral when it comes to behaviour, I’ve written very clearly about that. But banning does not work. In this context it’s straight out of the “Something must be done and this is something” book of policy making.

I know the answer “education is the solution” sounds crap, and grossly underwhelming if you have been assaulted in this way. And where it does happen it needs to be punished, harshly. I’d go so far as to say that no student who does this has the right to stay in the same school. There is, however, a difference between how incidents that have happened should be treated (rapidly and without taking any prisoners) and the need to work to prevent future incidents, which requires recognition that this is not just a school problem that can be solved by schools.

This is one of the tips of a very unpleasant iceberg. For example, my daughter, and most of her peer group, would wear shorts under their skirts because the boys would lift up their skirts. To most boys this sounds petty, childish but mostly harmless. To a teenage girl it’s mortifying. To me, it’s assault.

Most boys don’t want to be seen in that light. Most boys would never engage in such an action. But it’s also true that most boys wouldn’t grass on their mates if they did it. They don’t see this as an issue on the level of carrying a knife. Lifting a skirt up isn’t, to them, as potentially damaging. But we need to educate boys to the fact that is the level it can end up at when they allow/enable such behaviours.

Maybe I’m being over-optimistic, but I think such education can be done and it can be done quicker than most people think, as long as we are explicit about it.

Some boys have always done these things and there will always be those who do it in the future, but most boys would never treat their peers in this way. We have to change the mind-set of the majority so that not only do they not do it, but also they recognise the consequences of others doing it and act positively to stop it, rather than acting as passive bystanders.

I’m rambling now.

Précis time.

Education, education, education.

That’ll do it every time.