Battle over New York school cell phone ban

Posted by: IceMyst

Battle over New York school cell phone ban - 06/29/06 01:53 AM

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- New York may be a city of incessant cell phone talkers, but students vowed on Wednesday they would hit the "off" button during classes as they battled a ban on cell phones in schools.

Speaking at a city council hearing where lawmakers introduced a bill aimed at overriding a ban on cell phones enforced under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, high school students and their parents spoke out against the unusually stringent anti-cell phone policy.

"I feel mature enough to be able to turn off my cell phone in class," said LaGuardia High School student Jenna Gogan, 16. "This is about students' safety, because, especially in New York City, many parents need to feel reassured they can contact their kids going to and from school."

Dissent over the ban in New York escalated recently when Bloomberg introduced metal scanners and random checks at some of the city's 1,408 public high schools. The new scanners used to protect the city's 1.1 million students had led to the confiscation of more than 3,000 cell phones and 36 weapons, mostly knives and razor blades.

Detroit and Philadelphia also bar cell phones from schools while Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and Las Vegas allow them in the schools but prohibit their use during classes.

During the hearing, Bloomberg's representatives said the policy dated back to a 1988 ban on pagers and was needed to prevent students from using phones to send and receive text messages, taking photographs, surfing the Web and playing video games.

"Cell phones, with their multiple capabilities, are not just phones," deputy mayor Dennis Walcott told the hearing. "Students have used cell phones to summon friends for fights, to cheat on exams and to take illicit photographs."

But city council members said crime and disruptive behavior would occur regardless of the ban and any new law passed would allow students only to use phones before or after school and not during class.

"Kids pass notes back and forth but that doesn't mean we take away pens," said council member Belinda Katz.

Carmen Colon, a mother of three, said her kids needed phones so she could "juggle their lives" and keep track of them.

"This is a big city, it's tough and a whole lot of things go on," said her son Andre Green, 13. Asked if he had heard phones ring during class, he answered: "Yes, but sometimes it's just their mother calling."

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