A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Necessity is a Mother: NY Schools vs. the Electronic Leash, Part 2

They're smuggled in sandwiches. They're slipped in in pieces. They're slipped low in pants below the pat-down line. They are the objects of obssession worthy of a 12-step program. Their presence is deemed a threat to truth, justice, and blahblahblah.

Illicit drugs?
Illegal immigrants?
Yellowcake from Niger?
Nukes in Iran?
Cheat sheets for my US history final?
Proof of ETs?

Nah. We're talking cell phones in NYC schools.

Earlier this month, the Great and All-Powerful Oz and the Little Man Beind the Curtain Mayor Bloomberg and School Chancellor Joel Klein announced they WEREN'T KIDDING AROUND NOW and that the cell phone ban in the New York City Schools, which dates to the days when mobile phones were the size of a cement block, was going to be rigorously enforced, no foolin'.
Parents have written angry letters and e-mails, staged rallies and news conferences, and threatened to sue. Some City Council members are introducing legislation on their behalf.

But Mayor Michael Bloomberg and schools Chancellor Joel Klein have staunchly refused to drop the ban. They insist cell phones are a distraction and are used to cheat, take inappropriate photos in bathrooms, and organize gang rendezvous. They are also a top stolen item.

Students have refused to give up their phones, saying the devices have become too vital to their daily existence and to their parents' peace of mind.

"My mother, she needs me to have the cell to call me and check up on me," said Steven Cao, 16, a sophomore who lives in Staten Island and attends Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan. He called the ban stupid.

Some parents would prefer a policy that lets students have cell phones but prohibits their use in classes.

New York's 1.1-million-student school system has banned beepers and other communication devices since the late 1980s. But schools have long used an "out-of-sight, out-of-trouble" approach. Then, late last month, city officials began sending portable metal detectors every day to a random but small set of schools to keep out weapons. And the detectors have led to the confiscation of hundreds of cell phones.

New York has one of the country's toughest policies on student cell phones, and also bans other electronic devices such as iPods.

Detroit bans cell phones, and a two-time violator will not get the phone back. Boston relied on a school-by-school approach until recently, when it changed the policy to let students have a phone, but only if it is turned off and out of sight. Los Angeles lets kids have cell phones, but they can use them only during lunch and breaks.

Kenneth Trump, president of Ohio-based National School Safety and Security Services, said his research indicates most schools ban the phones. Others require students to turn off the devices during school hours.

New York principals said the ban is tough to enforce, especially in large schools without metal detectors.

Apparently, reinforcing that there are a million ways to make a buck that I am WAY too simple to ever think up myself, some nearby businesses have found a way to profit from the addiction to the electronic leashes: "Some students leave phones at nearby stores that charge small holding fees." Genius!

As I have stated previously, my district allows kids to have cell phones on their persons, but they are supposed to be turned off. Nonetheless, every week, at least one rings in my class, and I end up getting to collect it with a LOT less enthusiasm than Howard Hughes collected Mormons. Several times it has been a parent calling smack dab in the middle of class to remind the kid to go to the orthodontist.

By the way, memo to parents: I know that's important, but do you have to call in the middle of class? Imagine the effect if just THREE parents do this in one class period. C'mon! At the very least, call the kid at lunch or something. And remind your darling child to turn the thing to vibrate. When you call in the middle of class, you are saying that what is going on in class isn't important. I don't need to hear Good Charlotte come blasting out of the Cheerleading captain's purse every damn day when it's time to take her medicine (and yes, awhile back one girl used the alarm on her cell phone to remind her to take her birth control pill. In front of me, and as bold as daylight. THAT was a fun parent phone call, let me tell ya.)

However, if our policy of "Don't Ring, Don't Tell" was actually ruthlessly applied, it would work. If kids knew that their cell would be confiscated if it rang, I would hope parents would support it-- if they considered what the alternative is.

In which case, thanks Mayor Bloomberg! You might make MY life easier.

But who wants to bet how long it'll take for the first lawsuit in NYC? Anyone?


At 5/13/06, 7:57 AM, Blogger Mike in Texas said...

Its amazing the things we have to deal with that we shouldn't, and never expected we would.

Last year I had a 2nd grader come up to me and tell me his contact lense had come out. I had to ask him to repeat it b/c I wasn't sure I heard him right.

At 5/13/06, 11:23 AM, Blogger NYC Educator said...

I think the first lawsuit is already in process, actually. Regretfully, my premature senility precludes the inclusion of further detail

At 5/13/06, 8:32 PM, Blogger Onyx said...

I know you will appreciate this, and it happened yesterday! Kid is sitting at the taking a reading test, wiggles his finger for me to come over to him. He whispers "I hear a radio or something playing in those purses." I have a no purse or backpack rule in my class. I listen, I pick one purse and then the other. I hear the music, but not from the purse. the music is coming from the kid! I look at his pocket and ask him what he has in his pocket. He pulls out his ipod. The little headphones are plugged in and that is the source of the music. Everybody is laughing at this and I put my hand out so that he can place his beloved ipod in my hand. He looks so embarassed. He busted himself!

I turned the ipod over to my principal who also appreciated the story.

At 5/13/06, 11:26 PM, Blogger elementaryhistoryteacher said...

We know some of our kids have cell phones but we don't seek them out. "Don't ask, don't tell" that's our mantra. While some of your examples show how ridiculous some parents/children can be some of my parents have to leave for work early to weave through Atlanta traffic. They drop their kids at the bus stop and depend on the phone for the kids to call if there is a problem. After 9/11 my husband and I decided that our family would never, ever be without some form of communication between us all. Many of my parents feel the same way. I don't mind them having a phone as long as I don't see it. If I see it I take it as the county mandates. I think this is an issue where schools and parents are going to have to compromise.

At 5/14/06, 10:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must say that I think you have hit the nail right on the head. Cell phones are important and they should be allowed. However, it is important that they not be abused, and misuse should not be tolerated. My daughter has had a cell phone for close to two years and, as far as I know, she has never had it on in school, or at least during class.

Keep up the good work, rational voices should not be drowned out by irrational ones.

At 5/14/06, 2:09 PM, Blogger History Dude aka Mr. D said...

Why do teacher's havee to put up with this???

At 5/14/06, 2:18 PM, Anonymous Mrs. Bog said...

Just dropping in on this entry to say Happy Mother's Day! (Call your mothers on your cell phones - there, on topic!).

My blog is being retasked from pond and nature entries to the concerns of a future student teacher.

Also adventures of the Bog children -life as a dyslexic student and being under the gun of our state's high stake test as a learning disabled student (youngest Bog child and computer geek who designed my blog), the bog college students (will the twins get into the U of W?) and the comings and going of the various rock stars who tend to come and go around here (and make lots of noise while they are here!)

At 5/14/06, 2:41 PM, Anonymous Miller Smith said...

I teach in Prince George's County, Md. We are forbidden from taking a cell phone or any other electronic device from the students tht disrupt that learning environment. If the school misplaces the electronic items the system is required to pay for the loss.

Solution? In my class if the cell phone, or any other electronic device, is SEEN by me out at all I put a big fat ZERO down for the activity (classwork, test, whatever) we are engaged in and a discipline referral is written up on the spot.

Parents get real angry about this. I keep doing it anyway. I go to grade appeals all the time. I will put the parents through the time and trouble.

Parents who buck me get bad evaluations on their student's records and a refusal to provide any reference letters (I am a high school chemistry teacher and I get lots of requests). Is this nasty? You bet it is! And then, so is a brat with an attitude beeping and ring in my room during lessons.

At 5/14/06, 7:23 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Yes, I think kids should have them. Remember Columbine? If only the stupid authorities had believed those kids when they said their teacher was bleeding to death, there'd have been one less victim.

BUT I think they should be turned off or to silent during school hours unless there is a family emergency- and I mean a real emergency, not that the kid forgets to take out the trash.

I love the story about the iPod. One of my kids came to me the other day because we have the same iPod and wanted to borrow my cable to charge his up-- he'd left the earphones on and the thing had played its little guts out after it got jostled in his pocket.

See, I am a total music lover, and I have loved my iPods-- but we've had five stolen or misplaced this year at school. I tell my kids that I understand them wanting to, but I personally wuld never bring mine to school unless I could lock it up securely-- I use mine as a portable hard drive as well, so it's with me a lot, but always secure.

The other trouble with phones is the cameras on them. You can probably imagine what pictures I looked at the other day when the principal couldn't figure out what he was seeing on the screen-- but I will say-- EWWWWW.

At 5/16/06, 12:10 PM, Blogger curmudgeon said...

Maybe the Parent teacher organization should sponsor a class in texting over a cel phone


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