No one has more opinions about the city's ban on cellphones in schools than the students themselves. Four writers for their school newspapers wrote opinion posts for SchoolBook about the ban and how it affects their school and fellow students. Their posts have been lightly edited. An excerpt of each of their reports is below. Follow the links to the full reports on their schools' SchoolBook pages.
World Journalism Preparatory School, Queens
Cellphones have become essential for teenagers and adults, not just for texting or fun apps, but for safety. It is this very safety that is now in question for students, as the chancellor’s regulations have banned cellphones and other electronics from school property.
“Parents think not having a cellphone poses a threat to student safety,” Alyssa Longo, another senior, said. “If something happened, they would have no way to contact each other.”
Personally, I don’t see the problem with keeping cellphones in school. There’s no denying that there will be students who will misuse this technology, but this problem is easily remedied; if students are spotted using their phones during classes, the teacher can confiscate them.
In fact, by keeping their phones in school, students have opportunities to use this technology.
One of the first labs my physics class completed involved stopwatches. My class had a very limited number of stopwatches; however, because students had brought their phones to school, they were able to use those.
Also, during a few assemblies, students were asked to bring their cellphones with them. We were able to vote in school polls by sending text messages to a specific phone number.
Currently, my newspaper class is seeking approval to use cellphones during class in order to conduct interviews. Needless to say, the phones have been incredibly beneficial to students’ education.
Once upon a time, children could leave home for hours, without so much as a call home, and be back safely for dinner. Those days are behind us now. With such a high crime rate, it’s absolutely necessary for every student to carry a cellphone. Of course there are pros and cons to kids bringing their phones to school, but the positives far outweigh the negatives.
By Sue-Ann Jarrett
The Murrow Network
Edward R. Murrow High School, Brooklyn
In this day and age when almost every student owns a cellphone, it is unreasonable to prohibit them from the place where we spend the majority of our time — school. Not only is this ban outdated, but it is also ineffective.
In New York City, where the majority of students travel to school via public transportation, it’s crucial to keep in contact with our parents/guardians in case something goes wrong. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said on his radio show in July that if parents want to know where their children are, then they should give them cellphones.
If the mayor truly feels this way, then he should reconsider his stance on this issue. Without a doubt, there are students who misuse their cellphones by taking pictures of teachers and students without their permission, but a problem like this can be easily solved.
If teachers were more proactive and set rules and consequences for students who break them, then it wouldn't be such a big issue.
Cellphones in schools wouldn’t be such a big deal if teachers had more confidence in their students.
Not all teenagers are menaces to society. We are capable of following the rules and paying attention, because at the end of the day we just want to get our work done and go home.
By Siaree Alvarez
The Panther Press
Pelham Prepatory Academy, The Bronx
It's my adamant belief that by restricting cellphones from entering our schools, Department of Education officials are training young adults to be criminals. Students will bring them in whether administrators try to prevent it or not.
Having a cellphone ban creates a certain type of mentality that if we students cannot get what we want, we must find a way to get it by any means. And students will do so in creative ways, even if that means wrapping it tightly inside a sweater, as I saw someone do, or putting a phone between two slices of bread, as a classmate of mine told me he did.
Even more important is the fact that cellphones are vital to our existence for safety and communication. Most parents want to keep tabs on their children before and after school, in case of an emergency or a catastrophic event like 9/11.
What would parents do if their child was attacked or if there was another terrorist attack, a bombing or a hostage situation? City leaders are putting lives at stake by taking away the only form of communication we have. After all, we are human beings, we do get sick, and things can happen.
In some ways, this ban could also be seen as a form of discrimination against minorities. If you take a look at where these cellphone bans are enforced, it appears they are mostly in urban communities across the country. African-Americans and Hispanics are often the majority in these inner-city schools.
This practically tells us that a Hispanic or African-American has a higher probability to start a problem, cheat on a test or take vulgar photos in a bathroom.
If a compromise cannot be found, it might be time to make a universal cellphone that doesn’t turn on during school hours (unless a student is excused to leave early) and is provided by the Board of Education and given to each student on the first day of school. The phone could be prepaid by parents and programmed to only have a call feature to maintain communication with up to five numbers — all approved by parents — including 911.
After all, it really is only about communication and safety, which local government officials do not seem to have noticed they have left out.
By Adelina Zhang
The Murrow Network
Edward R. Murrow High School, Brooklyn
These days, a majority of students have Internet on their phones, including me. I find the Internet useful for educational purposes. During my free periods, the Internet is useful for researching facts or problems to help with my studies and homework. My phone provides the Internet that I need without having to go to the school library. My cellphone allows me to do something useful with my free period, studying.
Since I commute everyday by train from Brooklyn to Upper Manhattan, I need to text my parents in school when I’m going to stay late. They need to be informed about what’s going on.
The D.O.E. mistakenly believes that students may use their phones to cheat on exams. Another common concern is that students may video teachers or fellow students and place the footage on the Internet. This impression of cellphones is not a legitimate reason for why students cannot bring their phones.
Only a small percentage of students will misuse their phones. Then why should every student have to sacrifice for someone’s mistakes?
This old rule should be thrown out the window. There is only one solution. The city should permit all students to bring their cellphones to school, since it is an inevitable fact that students will continue to bring their phones, no matter what the policies may be.