The New York City Department of Education (DOE) will soon allow students to take their cell phones to school. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this month he wants to lift the ban that does not allow these devices on the school grounds.
For years, the DOE has had a Chancellors Regulation that prohibits students from having cell phones (also known as smart phones) and other communication devices on school premises. The policy was established to deter students from being and causing a distraction in class, as well as to reduce the possibility of problems associated with lost or stolen devices.
During his campaign for mayor, de Blasio vowed to end the ban. “I think it is very, very important to know how to reach their kids, and we have to come up with a universal way to make sure that that opportunity is there for our young people,” said the mayor, whose son is a senior at Brooklyn Technical High School, a public school.
Michelle Payne, a mother of three and teacher, supports de Blasio’s decision. “With the correct boundaries set by parents and school administration, cell phones would allow children to stay in contact with their parents without becoming a distraction,” said Payne who has rules for her son’s cell phone use at home. If he abuses his phone privileges, it is taken away from for a period of time.
Payne’s 16-year-old son Jaylen, a student at Medgar Evers College Preparatory School, ignores the DOE’s policy. He takes his phone to school but keeps it his backpack and turned off, said his mother. “He has never had a problem, but he has seen his friends get in trouble for playing games, texting and taking selfies.”
Although the DOE’s current policy does not require schools to search students for the devices, more than 85 city schools have metal detectors to stop weapons and cell phones from entering buildings.
Carlos German, 31, has always had reservations about the policy because he does think it is not universally applied. His son William, he says, cannot bring his cell phone into school because it, Transit Tech High School, has metal detectors. When William leaves home for school, he takes his phone but deposits it with a storage vendor – near the school – who holds the device for one dollar a day while he in class. “I don’t think it’s fair my eldest son has to pay to leave his cell phone with some stranger, but my other son can have it off in his backpack because there are no metal detectors at his school,” said German, who believes it is important that he and his children have the ability to easily communicate with each other during the day.
De Blasio has not announced the date when the ban will be lifted. The DOE is working to create a new policy that allows the phones in schools, but also maintains the decorum needed to provide a safe and sound educational environment for all students. Los Angeles, Chicago and Altanta are three large city school districts that allow phones on school premises but do not allow their use during classes.
BY AMANDA MOSES
EDITED BY AGNES E. GREEN