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Students, Parents Call For End To School Cell Phone Ban
NY1 News May 30, 2006
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May 08, 2006
The debate over whether cell phones should be banned from public schools is not over.
Students, parents and school officials who are trying to increase pressure on the city to change the policy, saying it doesn’t make sense, held a news conference outside M.S. 51 in Park Slope, Brooklyn, Monday to lobby for their position.
“Most of them arrive with the cell phone, it gets turned off, it goes into their backpack, gets stored in their locker for the day, and doesn’t come out again till 3:00,” said M.S. 51 Parent-Teacher Association President Kim Maier.
But Mayor Michael Bloomberg says he is sticking by the cell phone ban.
“You can’t use cell phones in schools, you can’t use iPods. Why can’t you get the message? They’re just not appropriate,” he says.
The ban is getting more attention since school safety officers last month started random scanning of students with portable metal detectors. The program’s goal was to uncover weapons, but hundreds of cell phones were also confiscated.
The head of the teachers”™ union says that’s going too far.
“We need a balanced plan that says out and out, prohibit the use of cell phones in schools, and if kids abuse it, you can confiscate it. But don’t say to a child or parent you can’t bring your cell phone to school,” said United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.
Parents, teachers and local lawmakers who would like to see a change in the cell phone policy have suggested some solutions. One would be letting each school decide on its own what its cell phone policy should be.
The other is to have students hand in their phones when they get to school in the morning. They would get it back when they leave.
“We have to make sure that whatever system we come up with does not end up with disruption of the classroom, and does not end up with other safety problems being created,” said Brooklyn City Councilman Bill de Blasio.
While a ban on cell phones in schools has been in effect since 1987, it’s recently been more vigorously enforced.
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School Cell Phone Ban Causes Uproar
NEW YORK, May 12, 2006(AP) Elizabeth Casanola carries her cell phone everywhere ”” even through the metal detectors at her school.
The high school senior puts the phone under her pants by her waistline, where she knows she won’t be patted down. Or she smuggles the phone into school in pieces ”” the battery separate from the main body.
A ban on cell phones in the nation’s biggest school system is creating an uproar among parents and students alike, with teenagers sneaking their phones inside their lunches and under their clothes, and grown-ups insisting they need to stay in touch with their children in case of another crisis like Sept. 11.
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. It 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.
“Every kid today does carry a cell phone,” said Howard Lucks, principal of New Utrecht High in Brooklyn. “The kids keep them in their backpacks, their pockets. As soon as they see an administrator or teacher, they put it away very quickly.”
Even at schools with permanent metal detectors, students find ways to sneak the phones inside.
Once inside the school, another tactic is to hide the phone in a sandwich roll, according to one principal. Some students leave phones at nearby stores that charge small holding fees.
Yen Ramirez, a junior at Manhattan’s Washington Irving High, said students need their phones for emergencies. The ban is a problem “because you never know what could happen.”
Students insist that most classmates use their cell phones responsibly, and they brush off criticism that previous generations got along fine without them.
“It’s kind of ridiculous that we think we can’t survive without a cell phone when people did it for thousands of years,” said Elisa Muyl, 14, a freshman at Stuyvesant. “But now that they have this invention, we should use it.”
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New York Daily News –
Bloomberg tone-deaf to cell phones
Sunday, April 30th, 2006
Even if the protesters who gathered at Union Square yesterday were magically able to convince President Bush to withdraw from Iraq, we would still be a city at war.
We would still face an enemy who begins and ends each day plotting to follow up the attack on the World Trade Center with another horror. We would still be the No. 1 target of Al Qaeda.
“It’s not a question of if, but when,” the experts always say.
As likely as not, an attack would come during rush hour, a time when parents and schoolkids are in transit. Their one link to each other during this time is often via cell phone, which students are currently banned from carrying at city schools.
Yesterday, our usually rational mayor spoke of cell phones with the same breath as contraband items such as guns, knives and box cutters.
“They’re not bringing them into school!” he was quoted saying.
He suggested that parents could call the school if there was an emergency, which they would generally do anyway when classes are in session. He did not address those times when city kids are taking public transportation between home and school. A London-style subway bombing during the morning rush could strand tens of thousands of schoolkids, panicked and unable to reach parents who were also in transit.
The attack on the World Trade Center began shortly after classes began, but the schools nearest the twin towers were evacuated. These included the High School for Economics and Finance, where the phones were ringing off the hook with calls from terrified parents. Two secretaries, Kathleen Gilson and Joan Trutneff, courageously volunteered to stay.
“No way,” the principal, Patrick Burke, told them.
The secretaries left with the principal and the phones rang unanswered in an empty building as the students and staff fled. A 15-year-old sophomore from Brooklyn named Simone Press took out a cell phone she had brought to school even though it had been confiscated once as contraband. She managed to get through to her mother, Rise Press.
“I could hear her running and screaming down the block,” the mother later told Daily News reporter Alison Gendar. “She said, ‘Mom, people are jumping out of windows. Mom, there are body parts everywhere.'”
In the immediate aftermath, what was still called the Board of Education considered scrapping the ban on cell phones and simply requiring they be turned off. The matter was referred to a committee for study and the result was that the ban remained in force.
As a result, the renamed Department of Education begins each school day telling itself that it operates with less sway over its students than your basic movie theater exercises over its patrons. No metal detectors are positioned at cinema entrances and most patrons do not even need a prompting to turn off their cell phones.
During the afternoon showing of “United 93” at the Battery Park Stadium 11, nary a cell phone was heard to ring among the audience. The only cell phones in evidence were those being used up on the screen by the ill-fated passengers.
As true as anything else in that movie is the desperate need to connect with your loved ones in the face of terror. A reminder of the very real threat we continue to face came to the patrons departing the Battery Park cinema who gazed across West St. to the pit known as Ground Zero.
The man who ordered that attack is still at large and is no doubt plotting at this very moment to perpetrate a new horror upon us. Our schoolkids need to be able to communicate with their families as they travel through this bull’s-eye called the City of New York.
And then there are the more ordinary dangers and emergencies that make parents ever grateful for the cell phones that keep them in touch with their kids in transit
Our mayor has been magnificent in his stand against guns and nobody could rightly dispute his speaking with the same breath of knives and box cutters.
But, when he adds cell phones to the list, he mars his moral authority with authoritarianism. He should chat with the kids who ride the subway with him each weekday and ask why our school system cannot impress upon them a lesson of simple courtesy taught in every movie theater.