What Do You Think?
How Can We Have Safety and Cellphones in School?
CELLPHONES VS. SAFETY
By MARC EPSTEIN, NY POST, 2/1/05
THE hilarious image of Alicia Silverstone walking and chatting with two of her friends on cellphones as they stroll side by side in the school hallway in the movie "Clueless" is forever etched in my memory - in sharp contrast to the eruption of violence that cells have visited upon our high schools.
Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has banned students from bringing cell phones and electronic devices into our schools. His reasons are sound: Phones going off in class lead to disruptions and confrontations with teachers. Pre-paid cell phones are frequently stolen, and have led to a spike in school-related thefts, and text messaging has figured in cheating incidents. Cells also facilitate gang activity in and around our schools.
Unfortunately, enforcement is all but impossible. The confiscation and vouchering of hundreds of cell phones is a bureaucratic nightmare requiring a full-time staff and a large safe. I can personally attest to that fact that confiscating a phone from a student can result in violence.
Then there's the parents - who usually tell the deans at our school, "Since 9/11, I want my child to have a phone." With parental support running against us, what are we to do?
This new technology has overtaken any system of regulations we have in place. A defiant student has little to fear from a suspension, and no school administrator wants to see cell-phone possession rise to the level of a criminal offense.
Once again, the business of educating is being disrupted by an unforeseen development that few would have predicted. Perhaps the best way to ensure the sanctity of our "cathedrals of learning" is to equip them with cell-phone jamming devices. Prohibition wasn't the answer for alcohol, and it won't be the answer for cell phones.
The Department of Education is slated to inaugurate a $5 million program to train teachers to handle "cyber-bullying" in schools, with $4 million provided by the federal government. For my money, the chancellor should skip the sensitivity training and work on getting cell-phone providers to make these devices useless in our schools once and for all.
Marc Epstein is a dean of students at Jamaica HS.