A space to reflect on my readings and musings, scattered and rescattered



Scanning. My school building got scanned for "electronics/technology" today. My principal waved me toward the staff entrance as I was walking in. I asked if I could instead enter through the student entrance. He shook his head no; I had to go in the "special" entrance, the one that was staffed by only one school safety officer, the one without metal detectors, the one where I wasn't treated like a criminal. Instead I walked in the staff entrance with my cell phone in my pocket without anyone taking even a glance in my direction; apparently I didn't "look" like a security threat. I spent my first period class simply observing the spectacle taking place in the lobby of my building. Did my best to interview the one officer who would talk with me to find out how this works in the overall system.

I'd noticed the effects of the scanning before I even got to school. I was sitting in the back of the B75 bus with 3 high school students--from my building but not my school. They had gotten word of the scanning via their cell phones. As the bus passed by the subway station most students in our building use, we looked at the window to see the hoards of students getting on the train, not off of it. The students on the bus said, "Look, everyone's just going home." They recognized peers getting back on the train and heading home. Attendance was low. Spirits were down. I'd expected it since last night when I got the note from my principal. I'm still wading through the data I collected this morning as I stood in the lobby during my planning period to watch the searches.

Here are some initial thoughts/details that stick out:

*There were about 40 officers on duty; the same 40 go from school to school and do this every day. School administration must support the set-up of the detectors and manage the confiscation and return of the technology. We had several additional staff away from their posts and in the lobby dealing with the show.

*I was told that the purpose of the scanning is "safety"--to find guns/knives, but I only noticed attention to technology. Ahh, safety theater. My favorite moment was watching one kid get pushed into the "doesn't have tech" line and walk upstairs with his headphones hanging out of his pocket. Not one officer noticed. Must have been my ethnographer's eye...

*One officer's role was to keep a tally of the number of ipods, phones, MP3 players, and other items (like glass bottles) that were confiscated. Wish I had that count.

*School administrators and guests were talking on their cell phones while collecting student cell phones. (Thankfully, they weren't from my school.)

*By about 9:40am, our school had filled a medium sized storage bin with name-labeled technology in plastic baggies and was moving on to the next bin. Our office manager was making her way through a book of claim receipts for the technology collected.

*The entire lobby erupted in laughter over a cell phone sandwich--one student's attempt at hanging on to her technology. A few of my girls told me they tried to get their technology in by putting it down their pants. That didn't work either.

*Some people in my school were excited because of the searching because it would mean at least one day without text messaging in their classes.

*Report from student: "A lot of people still got through with technology. Some girls put their cell phones in their bras and said it was the underwire. I had my cell phone and ipod in my bag and they only found my cell phone." There were 5 other students who she knew of who had made it through the detectors with their technology; I'm sure there were more.

More later...


At 4:37 PM, Blogger David Harrington said...

This is obviously an important use of resources. Particularly during tough economic times, it is essential to scare underserved children away from school by making them feel ashamed of the small electronic bits of material wealth that they've managed to snag over the course of their short urban lives. It is prudent and necessary to show them that, more important than education, is the following of essential law to the letter, even if it means turning them away from school, using up the entire day, and devoting millions of dollars of resources (that could be used for their enrichment and protection) to the noble cause of complying with laws that parents and administrators don't even believe in.

At 4:45 PM, Blogger lmv said...

wtf?! why? what was the rationale, if any, for this "process"? this can't be legal - just confiscating all of these techs...

At 4:51 PM, Blogger td said...

most of the tech gets given back by the school at the end of the day (except for kids with poor grades or low attendance whose parents have to come up). it's just so unsettling to have your stuff taken away from you and put in a ziploc baggie for the day. plus, the situation of passing back tech led to so so so many tears today... all for no reason.

At 8:36 PM, Blogger td said...

had to share grandma's response: "this is a police state. i feel sorry for the kids. they shouldn't be able to do that, to take their stuff. police shouldn't have that kind of power over our kids."


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