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Hundreds of Students Protest Texas School’s New Cellphone Ban: 'This Is Not Right'

Administrators at James Madison High School in Houston implemented the ban last week after a series of fights

<p>Kirk Sides/Houston Chronicle via Getty</p> Madison High School

Kirk Sides/Houston Chronicle via Getty

Madison High School
  • A high school in Houston has instituted a cellphone ban after a series of fights on campus

  • At James Madison High School in south Houston, students are now asked to turn in their phones upon arrival

  • The school is part of dozens who are under the superintendent's New Education system plan, which requires daily testing and longer instructional time

Students at a high school in south Houston are protesting new rules, including a school-wide cellphone ban, which they say are “unconstitutional” and have left them feeling like “prisoners.”

On Thursday, students at James Madison High School walked out in protest of the new procedures, which a Houston Independent School District official tells PEOPLE are partly the result of recent fights on campus.

“Madison students do not have the privilege of using their phones during lunch,” Houston Independent School District spokesman Jose Irizarry tells PEOPLE, referring to an HISD policy that allows most students to access their phones midday. “That is because cellphone video has been at the center of multiple recent fights on campus. This, obviously, endangers the safety of Madison students and staff and disrupts the learning environment. Neither is acceptable.”

He adds, “HISD will continue working to ensure our students and staff have the safe and productive learning environment they deserve at school, every day."

Related: Texas Judge Sets Trial Date After Black Student Suspended Over His Locs

Yet students at the school disagree, with many saying their own safety is at risk if they are without their phones.

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“Why are we banning phones from James Madison High School? Ban phones from other HISD schools as well,” Lala Farias, a senior at Madison High School, told NBC affiliate KPRC-TV. “On Monday, I had to turn in my phone and my mom was in the hospital and I didn’t know."

She added, “We need to all come together to try to make a change because this is not right."

Under the new rule, students must turn their phones in when they arrive at school. Phones are then returned to them at their last period, Irizarry says.

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According to the Houston Chronicle, the campus is one of dozens that are under Superintendent Mike Miles’ New Education system plan — which requires daily testing and longer instructional time.

Madison’s principal, Edgar Contreras, instituted the new rules, which also include separate entrances for each grad, last week in a move to curb violence at the school, he said, per the Chronicle.

Students initially walked out on Monday, and a day later, they issued a a demand list, arguing that the cellphone ban violates their rights, the newspaper reported. On Thursday, hundreds took part in the protest.

Superintendent Miles said late Thursday that students who continue to walk out of class will face suspension.

"Some students have already been suspended," Miles said per the Chronicle. "Walking out is dangerous for kids, and adults outside the system should not be encouraging that. It's not good for kids to be outside the school; it's not safe, and encouraging that kind of behavior is irresponsible for adults, especially adults who are not inside the school."

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