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.
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,
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?