A 10th grader has her iPod Touch with her at school. During class it's in her pocket. She realizes in the middle of class that the iPod is missing; she tells the teacher immediately. The student suspects that one of two boys sitting right behind her has the device. The teacher tries to find it on the boys but the search yields nothing. The teacher dismisses the class, including one upset girl.
Various questions may arise from this true scenario, the first issue we are addressing in a new occasional series exploring how technology is not only changing the interactions between people but people themselves. Why is the student bringing a $200+ device to school in the first place? Is it the role of a teacher to police such items? How prevalent are these incidents of suspected thieving in our schools?
In Yonkers, six middle school students were arrested over an "iPod Scuffle," recently reported News 12. Police said the boys attacked a student who was trying to get his stolen iPod back.
Ultimately, the family of the victim at our high school went to the Sleepy Hollow Police, whose district includes the high school. The case is under open investigation by the detective division. These cases may produce an item, or a suspect, or nothing.
According to SH Police Chief Gregory Camp and School Assistant Principal, Anthony Baxter, there have been “a few” or a “handful” (they said respectively) of such occurrences this year, which we are only a few weeks into.
According to the parent of the girl whose item was taken, a few incidents since the holidays is too prevalent for comfort. “Too much goes on and the kids aren't protected," Barbara Malone said. "You can't feel safe that the kid is at school and they'll be okay. They don't have students feel like something is being done. The ones who stole are sitting there laughing at them.”
Malone criticized the school's approach as dismissive. “[My daughter] was told she shouldn't bring personal items to school, but excuse me, my notebook is personal," Malone said.
School officials do not ban students from bringing such items on school property, but they do try to discourage them. Though there's wireless access throughout the building, Baxter stated that “they have all the tools they need here.” The school provides plenty of iPods, iPads, laptops, and desktop computers for in-school use.
But of course the school doesn't provide cell phones and cell phones are almost surgically attached to our teens (and even pre-teens) these days. “We are all the same,” Baxter said. “Technology has become such an important thing in their lives. They want it all the time. It's the first thing they reach for when they get out of class, without thinking.”
“Unfortunately sometimes these things do happen. It makes us sad, and we wish it wouldn't happen,” Baxter said. “Every school is facing this issue of how to deal with technology, but I don't think the stealing is rampant.”
Another thing that makes Baxter sad: “The technology allows us to do so many things and in some ways it's taken something away. The interpersonal, our face-to-face communication. You lose a little with every step of progress you make.”
Many parents have no hesitation letting their kids have these devices. “Heck no,” said Malone. “My daughter works to purchase her own stuff," she said, describing these devices as essential for this generation. Her daughter's been computer-savvy since the age of 3. “These kids aren't too young.”
Malone is trying to get a group of parents together to talk about something she feels is being brushed under the rug. When she wrote to Patch about the subject on our own Facebook page, another parent soon chimed in: "I agree with Barb. We talked earlier today and the school does nothing about it."
“The school wants it keep it hush-hush because of state records: they don't want to show that there's stealing, bullying, drugs," Malone said. "Unless you go undercover on Facebook, you're not going to see it.”
Technology is both the thing students covet, and the tool that may aid their desire to get it. “Kids text each other to get together for fights, and they text to steal,” Malone said, speculating on how the students may have communicated about the phone's location in her daughter's pocket. She also described how one kid allegedly puts items he's stolen up for sale on Facebook.
“I hold the teachers responsible for not properly securing a crime scene,” said Malone.
The procedure the school follows in such cases is to get the story and investigate it as best they can; Baxter said they talk to the police about any issues “pretty routinely.” The students and parents are “always welcome to pursue [going to the police].” As far as this specific incident in the classroom, he said, “You can only do what you can do at a given time. I think [the teacher] did what was expected."
If it does get to the police, Chief Camp said, “once we get involved, we'll do our best to conduct an investigation and find the object and/or a suspect.”
Camp didn't seem to think there was a trend to point here. “We don't have plethora of events up there [at the school],” he said, noting a few recent open cases, and a few closed. “I don't know if it's just not reported to us. But I don't think it's an overwhelming problem. These are isolated incidents. I don't see mass theft going on.”
Camp encouraged parents to contact the police if ever they suspect their child has been victim of a crime. He acknowledged the need for kids to keep up with “the latest sneakers, or fashion wear, or iPad 7...” But he also said, “Maybe it's not a good idea to bring it there.”