NEW YORK (AP) - Elizabeth Casanola sneaks her cell phone past the
metal detectors at her high school by slipping it down her pants, just
below the waistband, where she knows she won't be patted down.
A ban on cell phones in the nation's biggest school system is creating
an uproar among parents and students alike, with teenagers smuggling
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
Students have refused to give up their phones, saying the devices have
become too vital to their daily existence and to their parents' peace
"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, and 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
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. Casanola sometimes smuggles her phone in
pieces, with the battery separate from the main body.
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 High. "But now that they have this invention,
we should use it."
Copyright The Canadian Press, 2006
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