$900 cell phone won’t be reimbursed

The Pascagoula School District will not be reimbursing the parent of a Gautier High student for a cell phone the parent said was taken from his son and not returned.

Mark Miller filed a complaint in Jackson County Justice Court seeking repayment for a new phone, but his case was dismissed Tuesday.

“I should have had a lawyer,” Miller said Tuesday afternoon. “But I still think the policy is not legal.”

Students are not allowed to bring cell phones to school in the Pascagoula School District, and the policy is outlined in the district handbook. If a teacher or other school employee finds a student with a cell phone, the phone is taken away and not returned until the end of the school year.

Superintendent Wayne Rodolfich said employees don’t search for phones, but if one rings or a student is caught with it, the phone is taken away.

“We have a very clear deterrent,” he said. “All the parent has to do is make sure the child follows the rules. The parents get a copy of the handbook, and they have to sign for it.”

Miller has three sons at Gautier High and said he let them bring their phones to school in case of an emergency but made them turn off the phones when they got to school.

“The phone was in his pocket, and he forgot to turn it off, and it rang and the teacher took it from him,” Miller said, adding it was an iPhone 4S.

Miller talked to the principal, the assistant superintendent, Rodolfich and the School Board in an attempt to get the phone back, but he said all his appeals were denied.

Rather than wait until the end of the year, Miller purchased a new phone at the full price of more than $600, a case for $76 and tracking software that costs more than $100. He spent nearly $900.

“They bully the parents,” he said. “They won’t talk to you or work with you. Their policies are too strict.”

Rodolfich stands by the policy and said school employees don’t return phones to parents because the students likely would get them back.

“It’s a distraction. I need our principals and our teachers focused on instruction, not cell phones,” he said. “It’s a distraction to the instruction of students.”