Florida teacher suspended for using a signal jammer to disable students’ phones

That's a surefire way to summon local authorities.

Mar 1, 2020, 2:24 am*

Tech

 

Selena Larson

A Tampa, Florida, high school teacher thought jamming students’ mobile devices was a good idea.

Science teacher Dean Liptak wanted students to focus on the classroom and not their cell phone screens, so he researched phone-jamming devices online and brought one into his classroom, CBS affiliate WTSP reports. Clearly he didn’t do enough research, because the jamming device impacted much more than just his class.

Liptak was caught after representatives from Verizon appeared at the school to let administrators know someone was using jamming tech, which made it impossible for phones to communicate with the cell tower near campus.

The teacher’s attempt to keep his students’ attention was not only deeply problematic because students and teachers would be unable to call for help in case of an emergency, but it’s also against the law.

Both the use and sale of cell phone jammers are explicitly illegal, according to the FCC, a fact that Liptak seemed confused about. In his email to his supervisors defending himself, provided to the Daily Dot by a Pasco County School official, he claimed a police officer told him “there are no state laws against using them as long as you don’t use them for malicious intent.”

Liptak also claimed that he looked at 18 sites about cell phone jammers and didn’t realize there was any legal problem with using them, though when the Daily Dot searched the phrase “cell phone jammer legal,” the FCC’s warning, titled “Jamming Cell Phones and GPS Equipment is Against the Law,” is the first post.

It’s unclear exactly what kind of device Liptak used, and he didn’t respond to the Daily Dot’s request for that information. But he did note in his letter that he’d perused Amazon for jamming devices, and watched YouTube videos on how to make them. He also claimed that he ensured the device only worked within his own classroom, though he admitted he kept its existence secret from his own students and fellow teachers alike. 

Verizon isn’t going to press charges for attempting to make kids pay more attention to science than Snapchat. But the district suspended him for five days without pay.

The out-of-the-box thinker has been in trouble with the district before.

The pro wrestler turned science teacher was reprimanded in 2013 after he used violent questions on a test referencing the velocity of a student thrown against a wall by a teacher and the mass of a car running over a baby.

Between jamming cell phones and controversial test questions, Liptak is either Florida’s best or worst science teacher. Now he will just have to figure out how to ensure students are paying attention without rendering the entire high school’s mobile devices completely unusable.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to provide additional clarity and context.

Additional reporting by Kevin Collier.

H/T WTSPPhoto via Skakerman/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Fernando Alfonso III

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*First Published: Jun 3, 2015, 3:36 pm