NYC Addresses Complaints Over School Cell Ban By Charging Students To Store Them

from the one-bad-idea-after-another dept

Several years ago, the New York City school district decided to solve the problem of in-class cellphone use by banning the devices in schools completely, which as you might expect — hasn’t gone over very well with text-happy students. Teachers enjoyed having the devices out of the classroom, while parents were annoyed that they couldn’t reach their children in emergencies. In a feeble effort to appease parents, officials have now come up with an even dumber proposal: charging students to store their cellphones in lockers outside school entrances, despite a lack of funds or room for new lockers. The idea being kids could at least communicate with mom and pop on the way to school, and during off-campus breaks. Parents don’t like this either — and argue that the school shouldn’t profit off a bad idea, and that it discriminates against poor students who can’t pay the rental fee. One solution would be the legalization of short-range jammers for use in schools, though that would impede teacher and legit wireless communications, and as we’ve discussed, the more pervasive jamming technologies are (in theaters, hotels, schools, etc.), the more collateral communications issues will surface. Perhaps Mayor Bloomberg should start building giant faraday cages anywhere cellphones aren’t wanted, or line school walls with signal absorbing magnetic wood. If cost is such an issue for many school districts, it’s still not entirely clear why confiscating phones from disruptive students is such an unworkable solution.

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Comments on “NYC Addresses Complaints Over School Cell Ban By Charging Students To Store Them”

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Chris Falco (user link) says:


My points:

First of all, a school cell phone ban isnt that uncommon, and many many schools have them. Jamming cell phone traffic is almost always a bad idea. The necessity of communications in a legit emergency trumps every reason short of national security for jamming cell phones.

Second, having very strict punishments for using cellphones in class would deter all but the worst offenders. I mean STRICT punishments. Such as detention, loss of all credit for that day in class, even as far as suspension. A very harsh, but “non-zero-tolerence” policy should be adopted.

Third, in most junior highs, students put keep their phone. turned off, and in their locker for the school day. This is reasonable, and harshly punish students found with cell phones in class, or with cell phones turned on in hallways during school hours. For grade school students just make sure the phones are turned off.

The problem with the way you describe the issue is that there’s some invisible limit preventing cell phones from entering school property.

With after school activities, and students arriving early to school for many many reasons, cell phones are increasingly necessary to schedule rides, update parents on changes, and whatnot.

I dont understand why taking a very hard line on students disobeying the rule wouldnt fix the problem.

Enrico Suarve says:

Re: Jamming?

Good call Chris – my kid goes to a school where if he is caught with his mobile on in class times, it is confiscated and he can expect detention or some other menial duty

I have no problems with this and if I were to get a call off the school complaining about his constant use of mobiles in class times would probably do the home equivilant when he got in

It really is that simple – all that is required is a bit of discipline and common sense

As for Jamming – not 100% with you on that one I personally love the idea of certain areas where mobiles simply cannot be used (ah the peace) but thats been done to death on another post from carl a month or so ago

Ben Tovar says:

Karl Bode is onto something...

“If cost is such an issue for many school districts, it’s still not entirely clear why confiscating phones from disruptive students is such an unworkable solution.”

I couldn’t agree more, why is the simplest solution sometimes the best? Because it’s just that simple! NYC ISD is spending too much time coming up with extravagant methods to solve a not so extravagant problem.

Anonymous Coward says:

re comment #1

RTFA: “One solution would be the legalization of short-range jammers for use in schools, though that would impede teacher and legit wireless communications, and as we’ve discussed, the more pervasive jamming technologies are (in theaters, hotels, schools, etc.), the more collateral communications issues will surface.”

Anonymous Coward says:

In my school, you’re allowed to have your cellphone with you at all times.

If it rings or if a teacher catches you using it during class they take it and turn it into the office. From there your parents have to go pick it up for you.

A lot of teachers will let you play games and listen to music on them (or MP3 players) during free or extra work time. It keeps the classroom quieter, so people who need work time can work.

ucf says:

in college

I’ve always liked the college approach.

Talking on a phone? Talking in general? Taking a nap? Not paying attention? Reading material for another course?

Almost always in the first two cases, and occasionally in the last three, professor/instructor/GTA just tells you to leave. And they don’t particularly give a crap if you ever come back.

That kind of “If you dont want to be here, don’t come” attitude should be brought in to the high school level. By then, they either want to learn or they do not. No additional skills are learned in high school that they’ll need for minial labor like janitor positions, or burger-flippers or construction jobs or drug dealing, so best to let them have the option to leave so that those that are college bound arent distracted, socially and intellectually, by these failures.

Parents predictably would scream over this, however, if they spent half the effort complaining about such a measure on their kids to encourage them to follow the proper path, then they wouldn’t be having a problem.

Can You Hear Me Now says:

Dumb Idea

Probably Dumb Idea but I would just make the kids turn it off then, then place it on the corner of their desk. If it rang confiscate it for the day.

One of my old teachers had a great solution if you continued to play with something you should after repeated attempts he threw it out the window and made you got get it(we were on second story). Thankfully there were bushes down below so my stuff never broke.

ShadowSoldier says:

Zero Tolerance

ALright my school has found a pretty good solution. If you get caught with your cell phone then you lose it until you graduate. It may sound harsh but it works, I lost a nice phone when I forgot to take it out of my pocket one morning and it started beeping out of nowhere. Sorry Hiram but I think that you are stuck in the past. Do kids need cell phones, not exactly but it is helpful for parents, it gives them a sense that they can talk to their kids in an emergency or, if they are like my parents, whenever they want to know where I am. Now should 13 year old girls have RAZR’s absolutely no, get them one of those special kid cellphones which have very limited capabilities. But we live in a world that is more connected now than evr and one of those ways of connecting is cell phones. Also you say that since you didn’t need them when you were kids they don’t need them now, thats just not true. The world has changed a lot, and it has become, unfortunately, worse and more dangerous for kids. We don’t live in a world anymore where kids can just go out and play in the street or go to a friends house without some kind of danger. It may sound crazy but it is true.

Hiram says:

Re: Zero Tolerance

If parents NEED to have a cell phone on their kid to know where they are then they arent doing a very good job at being a PARENT. They should know at all times where there kid is. When I went out of the house as a kid my parents always asked where I was going and if they suspected I was lying they would call the place I said I was going and if I wasnt there I got a whoopin. Im not against technology, hell I have a lot of it, But cell phones do nothing but piss off everyone around the user. Cell phone users just like parents who let their kids run around and scream and yell in a restaurant/grocery store/movie theater/church etc… are just another way to shows those all around you that you have no repsect for your fellow people. Too many people have the mentality that they are the only people in the world and screw everyone else.

Joe T says:

Re: Re: Zero Tolerance

The world is a lot different now. Back 10, 20, and more years ago, we didn’t have kids getting snatched off the streets and killed all the time like we do now.

This is a discipline issue, not a technological issue. I like the approach that another commenter made – if the phone is used in class, it goes to the office where the parent must pick it up.

kweeket says:

Re: Re: Re: Zero Tolerance

I’m so sick of people repeating the idea that kids are “getting snatched off the streets and killed all the time”.

From the U.S. Department of Justice website: the national homicide rate rose steeply in the late 60’s, peaked in the late 80’s, and has fallen off dramatically in the late 90’s. Right now the homicide rate is about the same (per capita) as it was in the early 60’s – and lower than it was 10 or 20 years ago. From this page on homicide rates by age, you can see that young homicide victims per capita are essentially unchanged since the 70’s.

I think the myth of “things are so much worse now” hinges upon two issues: one, we have double the population of the 60’s, so the total number of victims is higher; two, the media coverage of crime is much better now. So even though per capita crime rates are about the same as the 1960’s (meaning your actual risk is unchanged), there are more total crimes – and you’re more likely to hear about them. Thus the likelihood of being a victim seems higher, when in fact it has not changed significantly.

ShadowSoldier says:

Re: Re: Zero Tolerance

OK I will agree that cell phone users can be assholes, but I’m 18 and that means I can drive. MY parents worry a lot so they need to know where I am when I’m out, and a lot of the time I may just be driving around for the fun of it.Like I said before, they make cell phones for kids, that do practically nothing besides let parents call them, I’m not sure if they even make outgoing calls.

Wolff000 says:

Difficult Dilemna

Not an easy question to answer. I can understand a parent’s frustration not being able to talk to a child if needed especially as much as mobile plans cost. On the other hand a phone in a classroom is only a distraction for the one with the phone and the rest of the class if it goes off in class. Jamming is going too far as an emergency call could not get out. Charging for storage just seems ridiculous. The easiest solution which has been pointed out is simply having a rule that no phone is allowed to be on during school hours except in designated areas. I remember when the same thing was done with smoking in my high school before the ban. We had designated smoking areas that we were allowed to smoke in, everyone pretty much followed the rule and it made administrations life easier not chasing every smoker out of the bathrooms. Of course you still had some of that but the majority followed the rules. As far as students having a say in policy it is an excellent idea. Why should children be treated like prisoners and animals? If they have 0 say in their lives they are a lot more likely to break the rules. If you give them a little credit and include them in decision making they are more likely to follow the rules since they helped create them.

Mike says:

Agree with Bob

Bob has the right idea. When I was in school, if a parent needed to reach me all they had to do was call the school and someone from the front office would come down with a note, or page the room and speak with the teacher on the internal phone system. What ever happened to that process?

People in our society have a sense of entitlement that causes stuff like this to happen and things are starting to get out of hand.

misanthropic humanist says:

prolonged dependency

Cellphones are valuable property so I can see why simply having them collected and thrown in a drawer is not acceptable. The charge is to provide proper security for the devices and to act as a deterrent to bringing them in the first place. One presumes this charge also covers insurance so if the phone is damaged while in storage the teacher is not culpable.

Do children need cellphones at school? Absolutely not. Not even for emergencies. There is no conceivable situation in which the child needs to contact the parent during school time. Within those hours the child is in loco parenti – the school assumes all the legal rights and responsibilities of the real parent. If there is an emergency in which the parent needs to contact the child it can be done through the school and somebody will go and fetch the kid out of class. If the child needs to contact the parent they can ask a teacher and go down to the school office to use a payphone or free landline for necessity.

The interesting part is before and after school where transport arrangements are made. Not only is this outside the schools responsibility and juristiction, it is not really anybodys place to judge the family arrangements.

From a psychology POV I think parents giving kids cellphones to “stay in touch” just prolongs their dependency, it is an umbilical cord that does not foster self-determination, security and personal responsibility. But some mothers and fathers want their children to remain wet and needy, in most pathologies it is the parents who are unable to let go, not the kids. When I was 9 years old I spent days at a time camping out in the woods. But, if we had been able to afford walkie-talkie radios with a good range back in the 1970s I think they would have bought a pair. It’s hard to compare my rural childhood 40 years ago with urban kids today, but I get the impression they are pretty weak – not their fault, they are raised that way.

Skot Elektron (user link) says:

how dare they

schools should not be promoting ways for the kids to think faster and multitask. how could the teachers EVER keep up? ever seen someone hold 12 conversations at once. i have… my 12 year old neice that is about to bite me if i don’t let her get on her myspace on this computer. AND myspace for kids???? don’t let them learn self-expressionism, either. because corporations don’t like individuals that don’t fit as cogs. how could the managers control what they had to say?

frankthetank says:

very good points both for and agains having cellphones.

some replies
to “bad parends”: sure, parents should know where their kids are at all times. however, if your kid has practice at the school, but then during the day, it gets canceled, the kid’s left to wait until the “scheduled” pracite is over. the kid could hitch a ride witha friend, but then how woulod you know? maybe you are at grandma’s house in bumblefart w/o telling your kid., how would they know wehre you are, to call you?

as for teacher collection: it’s not the teachers job to collect cell phones. that takes precious classroom time away. and kids need every nanosecond they can get.

as for calling the school: i know people who had messages and weren’t told until the end of the day. i was lucky (but i was a goodie goodie and in with all the office staff). so, if you got amessage to get a ride home, you’d have all of like 10 minutes to get to the bus, or try and bum a ride, where if you were gtting picked up, you knew you had more time to get ready.

as for throwing away, descruction of property. i’m sure they wouldnl’t do it if it was a schoolbook. ohwell..

i could go on, but i don’t see a “fair” way to resolve this.

Jim says:

You Miss the Point

It’s not about having the phone during classes, it’s afterwards. How many high school kids go straight home after school? They go to a job, football practice, a freind’s house, wherever.

Since as it stands they can’t bring the phone to school, unless it’s viable for them to go home and get it before work, etc the problem arises. Being this is about NYC, most of them probably take public transit and don’t have a car to leave it in either.

They should be able to leave it in their locker, (with the exception of lunch), during the school day. Deal with those who abuse the policy apropriatly

BobW (profile) says:

Why Complicate The Issue

Jack is right. The students simply should be held responsible for their conduct and actions. By the time they reach High School, they should have a concept of responsibility and appropriate conduct. The majority seem to, or is high school really chaotic all the time. For those that do not exhibit appropriate use of their cell phones, dicipline them appropriately. It is unreasonable to punish everyone by denying an otherwise legal activity, for the failure of a few. If they are expected to behave like adults (albeit young adults) then they should be treated as such, and held accountable. It would seem to me the same rules that are in place for the teachers should also be in place for the students in this matter.

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