School confiscates autistic boys phone for three days after it rang in class

The parents of an autistic boy whose mobile phone was taken off him after he got an unsolicited PPI call during class have blasted his school as he is now left unable to contact his "support network" over the weekend.

Keane Gemmell forgot to switch off his iPhone when he went into classes at Leicester's Rushey Mead Academy on Friday, September 24, with the device being held by teachers over the weekend.

His father, David Gemmell, 43, of Thurmaston, said because of Keane's autism he doesn't cope well with the stress of roads, and using the mobile phone to liaise between friends and his parents on the walk home from school is "vital" for him.

Mr Gemmell told LeicestershireLive: "Keane doesn't do well with roads due to 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 journey.

"Not having his phone would have sent us into an unbelievable panic."

As well as taking the phone, teachers kept the teenager in detention for an hour after school and told him his parents would be able to collect the phone on Monday.

In a letter issued to parents in June, the school's phone policy says: "From the next academic year, we will be banning the use of mobile phones while students are anywhere on the school site.

"We understand that you may want your children to have mobile phones so that they are able to contact you at the end of the school day.

"Students will be allowed to have mobile phones on their person, but they must be 'Off And Away All Day'."

Mr Gemmell said he largely agreed with the school's policy but was "furious" at the teachers' decision to withhold his son's phone over the weekend.

He said: "It was a huge issue for Keane. He relies on his phone for most things, most importantly to stay in touch with his support team."

The phone policy provided to LeicestershireLive from Rushey Mead Academy states that phones will be confiscated for 24 hours but does not mention anything about the weekend.

Mr Gemmell added: "I am disgusted that the school held on to the phone for so long.

"When I asked them about it, they said they hold the phone for 24 hours or until the next academic day. But it does not say that in the policy.

"On the Friday, we were very lucky that one of Keane's support staff allowed him to use their phone so he could call us and let us know what had happened.

"I dread to think what we would have been like if he didn't get in touch with us. We would have been in a tailspin.

"For him to have to walk home without a phone is a huge safeguarding issue as far I'm concerned.

"There's been loads of crime in the area recently and if they don't have a phone, what are they supposed to do? It's frightening."

On the day Keane's phone was confiscated, the family says the school sent out an email to parents with an update to its policy, including a reference to its intention to hold on to phones confiscated on Fridays until the following Monday.

"Letters were sent to parents reminding them of the policy change at the start of the new year.

"Students were also reminded regularly in tutor time," said Gulbanu Kader, Director of Education, Secondary at The Mead Educational Trust.

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