2006-05-19 / Editorial/Opinion


Cellular Phones And Schools Do Not Mix

There has been lots of controversy lately about the Department of Education's ban on students carrying cellular phones within school buildings. Most recently, some students and their guidance counselor were arrested for vigorously protesting that ban. The United Federation of Teachers (UFT), the union that represents the city teachers has come down on the side of students. Parents have protested as well, decrying the fact that if the ban holds, they won't be able to contact their children should the need arise. Those groups argue that students should be allowed to carry their cellular phones, but not to use them. That is easier said than done, and we agree in this issue with the DOE ban. We think that unlimited use of cellular phones within the schools would be disruptive to the education that should be going on. We have known teens to text message each other while a lesson is going on. We have known teens that have taken phone calls during a class session, arguing that there is an emergency at home that must be handled. We have seen teens text message test questions to friends who must take that test later in the day. You might say that there is a simple answer, that the teacher should simply take the phone from students who do things such as those. That is easier in the theory than in the application. When a teacher must stop a planned class activity to take that kind of action, the flow is gone as all the other students rubberneck to see what will happen next. Even if the student gives up the phone, the lesson is gone. If the student refuses, the situation becomes worse. It creates a situation in the classroom that the teacher cannot win. Then, once the teacher or administrator has control of the errant phone, what next? Is it to be given back to the student at the end of the day? What kind of lesson is that? Is it to be given back only to an adult who must then come to school to get it? What happens if the phone gets misplaced or damaged while in the school's possession? What happens if the phone is filched while the student is in gym? Cell phones have quickly become the item of choice by school thieves. Who pays the freight for the expensive piece of electronic equipment? Cellular phones have no place in school. If parents must contact their children, there is a central number to call in the school's main office. That system has worked for the past sixty years and it will continue to work despite the new technology that is often necessary but sometimes, particularly in a school setting, equally disruptive.

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