Almost 500 mobile devices issued to seniors in Fulton County Schools during the 2019-2020 school year have not returned, and parents could find themselves being billed or even facing criminal charges if they don’t contact the school system.

“It is imperative that these devices be returned, and we expect a 95% or greater return rate,” Emily Bell, chief information officer for Fulton County Schools (FCS), told the Board of Education at their July 14 meeting.

A total of 5,830 mobile devices, such as laptops with chargers were distributed to senior students for the 2019-2020 school year. Of those, 5,339 have been logged in as returned. Bell said some mobile devices were returned to quarantine lockboxes. Until they are retrieved, disinfected and logged, she can’t be sure of the exact number of students who haven’t returned them.

Once those quarantined devices are tracked, Bell said, her team will send out letters in mid-August, giving parents and students five days to return them to one of four FCS technology hubs

Superintendent Mike Looney told the school board that the process is when a student leaves the district, the device must be returned. If the student or parent does not return the device, the family gets billed for it. The IT staff “bricks,” or remotely shuts down, the device so it can’t be used. Then a police report is filed about the device being either lost or stolen.

A bricked device can be recovered for use by the IT staff so another student can be issued it for classwork, Bell said.

Parents and students can contact the IT department to arrange a return date or to pay a lost-device fee. The department can be reached by phone at 470-254-4357 or by email at

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.