Parents of autistic teen angry after his 'vital' phone was confiscated because it rang in class

An autistic teenager’s parents are furious after his school confiscated his phone for three days after it rang in class.

Keane Gemmell’s parents are furious that his teachers took the 15-year-old’s iPhone and told him he couldn’t get it back until the following Monday.

Keane, who didn’t realize his phone was still on until he received an unsolicited PPI call, used his phone to keep in touch with his support team, his parents said.

Papa David Gemmell of Thurmaston told Leicester Live the phone was “vital” for Keane to communicate with his family, especially when walking home from Rushey Mead Academy.

The 43-year-old said, “Keane doesn’t get along well with streets because of his autism. When he leaves school, he walks part of the way with his friends and then we meet him for the rest of the trip.

“Not having his phone would have terrified us.”

The teachers not only picked up the teenager, but also held the teenager in custody for an hour after school and told him his parents could pick up the phone on Monday.

In a letter to parents in June, the school’s telephone policy stated: “Starting next school year, we will ban cell phone use while students are everywhere on the school premises.

“We understand that you want your children to have cell phones so they can reach you at the end of the school day.

“Students are allowed to carry cell phones with them, but they have to be out all day.”

Mr Gemmell said he largely agreed with school policy but was “angry” at the teachers’ decision to hold his son’s phone off for the weekend.

He said, “It was a big problem for Keane. He relies on his phone for most things, mostly to keep in touch with his support team.”

The phone policy provided to LeicestershireLive by the Rushey Mead Academy says phones will be seized for 24 hours but doesn’t mention anything about the weekend.

It says: “Confiscated phones will be taken to student support, where the phone will be kept in the school safe and the student’s name will be recorded.

“The phone must be picked up by a parent / legal guardian; it will not be returned to the student. The parent / legal guardian will receive an SMS.

“Primarily, phones will be confiscated for 24 hours. Please allow at least 24 hours before you come to school to pick up the phone.

“The phone will not be returned to the parent / guardian until it has been kept for at least 24 hours.

“In some cases the phone is kept longer if there is a problem with asking students to hand over the phone.”

Mr. Gemmell added, “I am disgusted that the school kept on the phone for so long.

“When I asked them about it, they said they would hold the phone for 24 hours or until the next academic day. But that is not in the directive.

“We were very lucky on Friday that one of Keane’s support agents allowed him to use his phone so he could call us and tell us what happened.

“I’m afraid to think about how we would have been if he hadn’t contacted us. We would have been in a tailspin.

“The fact that he has to go home without a phone is a major security problem for me.

“There has been a lot of crime in the area lately, and if they don’t have a phone what should they do?

On the day Keane’s phone was seized, the family said the family sent parents an email with an update to their policies, including an indication of their intention to keep phones seized on Friday until the following Monday.

Mr. Gemmell added, “It was only after I complained that they released the update at 6:38 pm on Friday.”

Gulbanu Kader, Director of Education, Secondary at The Mead Educational Trust, said, “We know that the best thing for the well-being and mental health of our students is having them without cell phones during school.

“We are also concerned about the rise in inappropriate use of social media and online bullying across the country.

“It is our duty to protect all of our students and this contributed to our decision to ban the use of cell phones on school premises.

“This is in line with many other schools at the national level and is supported by the Ministry of Education, which is also recognizing the adverse effects of cell phones on children.

“At the beginning of the New Year, letters were sent to parents reminding them of the policy change.

“The students were also regularly reminded of this during the tutoring period.

“We are constantly reviewing our guidelines and will think about whether we could have done anything better.

“We are pleased that our school community supported the ban in such a way and understands the necessity of its implementation.

“Rushey Mead is an inclusive school and we work closely with our parents of children with special needs.

“We want to support all of our students and will always discuss ways to accommodate individual needs when parents approach us in a constructive and supportive manner.”

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