A science teacher at Fivay High School was suspended five days without pay after he admitted to bringing a cellphone “jammer” to school in an attempt to keep students focused on school work.
In a letter to the Pasco County School District, Dean Liptak, the science teacher, said he sometimes had to stop instruction to confiscate students’ cellphones and didn’t realize he was not allowed to use a “jammer” in the classroom.
However, Liptak’s actions caused “celltower disruptions over the course of three days,” Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning said in a formal letter of reprimand.
“Mr. Liptak, not only did your actions potentially violate federal law, you posed a serious risk to critical safety communications as well as the possibility of preventing others from making 911 calls,” Browning wrote.
Tom Neesham, district supervisor for employee relations, said the situation “could have led to substantial monetary penalties and criminal sanctions, including imprisonment,” according to Browning’s letter.
Liptak used the device from March 31 through April 2. The Pasco school board approved Browning’s suspension recommendation Tuesday.
In 2013, Liptak received a letter from school administration expressing concerns over the creation of an instructional worksheet “containing inappropriate content.”
Browning’s letter served as a last-chance agreement for Liptak to maintain employment with the district. If another incident of poor judgment occurs, Browning said he would recommend that Liptak be terminated.
Liptak’s jammer use was discovered in April when Verizon representatives arrived at the school with concerns that someone in the school was jamming cell phone signals, said Linda Cobbe, district spokeswoman.
“They asked for permission to walk the school with a device” that could detect a jammer, she said. “It honed in on his classroom. The whole time, they thought it was a kid.”
In reply to Browning, Liptak wrote that he never meant to cause problems.
“Since the incident happened so, so, so many teachers have come up to me and said that they were thinking of getting one and using it in their classroom,” he wrote. “I told them, ‘No, don’t do that! They’re not allowed.”