District policy questioned after student's phone reportedly stolen from teacher

A missing student phone is raising questions about testing policies in Fort Bend ISD.

Teachers are increasingly having students turn in cell phones at the beginning of class, but one parent says there is a lack of protocol to make sure students get their phones back.

Monica Sulit upgraded her son’s iPhone in October, and he usually keeps it on him at Elkins High School where students are allowed to have their phones. However, teachers get to decide the phone policy for their particular classrooms.

She says one of her sophomore's teachers prefers for them to be switched off, and students have to drop their phones into the teacher’s bucket on testing days. On one such day at the end of October, Sulit says her son switched his phone off.

"He turned it into the teacher's bucket as soon as he got to class,” she says.

After taking his test, he went back to the teacher to get his phone.

“He went to the bucket, and his phone was missing,” says his mother.

A search of the classroom came up empty, and the following day she says the teacher asked the students to write her a letter if they knew anything about the phone's disappearance. But nearly two weeks later, no one had come forward with the phone.

“They continue to ask if anyone had the phone and to return it if they had it, but the same thing just kept being repeated over and over and nothing had happened,” adds Sulit.

The parents say they wanted to file a police report the day that it happened but were told by an assistant principal to hold off while the school investigated. Believing the phone was stolen by another student, Sulit says she's out nearly $1,000.

“When the students have their phone and it’s in their locker or if it’s misplaced or lost or stolen or anywhere else, it’s their responsibility, but with this situation, the teacher actually physically took it up herself," says the parent.

She wants the school to replace the phone and create a system for teachers to keep track of them while they're in their care.

Fort Bend ISD issued the following statement in response to the incident:

“Elkins High School administrators are aware of the missing phone and an investigation is underway. Administrators are taking this seriously and have been in communication with the parties involved to address this matter.

Advocating for responsible phone usage is an ongoing effort for our district and campus leaders, and the classroom management practices may vary from classroom to classroom and campus to campus.

With that said, this incident is unfortunate, and an important reminder for our staff regarding best practices, and the importance of securing devices if they are out of a student’s personal possession.” 

After we reached out to the district, the mom says she was contacted by the school which has agreed to reimburse her for the phone and review its protocol for phones during testing.