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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Check cell phones at the door – of class

    I

    , like many of my fellow students, had a cell phone when I was in high school. Now kids as young as 12 or 13 have them. But as technology becomes cheaper and owners get younger, schools institute rules to accommodate. At my high school, the rule was that cell phones could not be out or used while classes were in session. In New York City, it goes a step further and children may not bring cell phones to school period.

    The word “”overkill”” comes to mind, but a few New York City parents thought of another one: unconstitutional.

    Eight parents and a citywide parents’ association are suing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and the city’s Department of Education. They argue that the city ban “”is so broad and blunt that it violates their constitutional right as parents to keep their children safe and to raise them in the way they see fit”” according to the New York Times.

    The suit, filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, claims that the rule violates the relationship between parents and children without a “”compelling education reason”” for doing so.

    However, the schools chancellor says otherwise. “”It is our experience that when cell phones are brought into schools, they are used and disrupt the school’s learning environment. There is no constitutional right to disrupt a student’s education,”” he wrote in an e-mail to the New York Times. In reducing this “”distraction,”” school officials have already confiscated more than 3,000 cell phones in New York City’s public schools.

    The lawyers representing the parents, Norman Siegel and David Leichtman, emphasized that the parents were not advocating use of cell phones during the school day, only before and after school. Therefore, if it is not being used during school hours, there is no disruption.

    If cell phones are “”disrupting the educational environment”” as Chancellor Klein asserts, then it seems that the proper course of action is to ban their use during school hours, not their presence on school property. Doing so can cause simple safety problems.

    Parents say it is a safety concern. Many of the students in New York City’s public schools ride buses or subways to get to school, and some have needed to use cell phones to call for help when threatened on the way home or left outside of school alone and locked out. If a student’s car battery dies while he is in school, a cell phone makes it easy to call his parents for help (especially in this day and age of speed dial where people don’t know phone numbers anymore).

    Aside from safety concerns, it is an issue of simple freedoms. Aside from dealing drugs and vandalizing school property, there are few things that students cannot do before or after classes on school property. Talking on their cell phones certainly shouldn’t be one of them.

    This is one case in a long legacy of cases relating to student rights. How much freedom should students have, and which rights should they be entitled to? Lawyers – and judges – have debated these questions for decades.

    History has watched as students have taken on school districts for basic constitutional rights, including the right to have certain types of clubs on campus, the right to peacefully protest government and the right to not salute the flag during morning recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance.

    Now, parents are fighting for their students’ rights to possess a piece of electronic equipment that is neither dangerous nor lethal. It’s certainly not as lofty as religious freedom, but sadly, it has become necessary.

    Schools are faced with increasing pressure to raise standards and test scores yet bombarded with changing social norms – such as children owning cell phones at a younger age.

    However, in an attempt to keep order in the schoolroom, administrators have stepped outside the realm of feasibility. There are just too many problems, both logistically and constitutionally, with an all-out ban on cell phones on public school grounds.

    It is admirable that schools are trying to cut down on distractions in the classroom, but in my experience, the two girls sitting behind me talking to each other (in person, not on their cell phones) are a bigger distraction than anything. Let kids use their cell phones in the hallways, but have them check them (or turn them off) at the classroom door.

    Janne Perona is a junior majoring in criminal justice administration. She can be contacted at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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