Lifting Cell Phone Ban in Schools Leaves Some Parents & Educators ConcernedBy Stephen Witt
January 24, 2015 16:39
By Stephen Witt
As Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña ready for the city to lift the ban on cell phones in schools, not all parents and educators are in agreement with the policy shift, and some think it could cause more problems in the learning process.
“I’m not for the lifting of the ban. I think it will be a huge distraction for students and cause a lot of conflicts between students in the schools,” said Oma Holloway, a Bed-Stuy mother of an 8-year-old child and a community activist.
“I think it’s totally appropriate not to have cell phones in classrooms. Most schools have emergency systems in place where parents can be contacted or texted, and they will cause distractions in the classroom,” she added.
Holloway also mentors several dozen local youths between the ages of 14-21 on a weekly basis as part of the Bed-Stuy YES (Youth Education Safety) task force. In this role, she said she spends a lot of time in this mentor role telling the students to put away their cell phones.
“I truly don’t see the value of lifting the ban. Maybe I need to be more educated, but I think it will cause more problems for parents and teachers in the classrooms and I would rather the children be focused on education. As a parent advocate, I don’t think I’m in the minority.
In lifting the ban, de Blasio said the change will better enable parents to stay in touch with their children, especially before and after school. It will also end the inequity under the current ban, which was enforced mostly at schools with metal detectors in low-income communities.
The existing Chancellor’s Regulation bans cell phones and other electronic devices like iPads from school property. Students are required to leave their cell phones at home or leave them outside the building, often incurring a daily charge for private storage that can cost a family on average $180 each year.
As part of the change, schools will increase education and training to identify and prevent cyber-bullying, including a “Misuse It, You Lose It” policy.
“Parents should be able to call or text their kids. That’s something Chirlane and I felt ourselves when Chiara took the subway to high school in another borough each day, and we know it’s a sentiment parents across this city share,” said de Blasio.
“Lifting the ban respects families, and it will end the unequal enforcement that has penalized students at so many high-needs schools. We are giving educators the tools and the flexibility to make this change responsibly,” he added.
The lifting of the ban also has the support of the public schools’ teachers union (UFT), but charter schools are allowed to set their own policy on the matter.
For example, Holloway’s child attends the Community Partnership Charter School, which shares classroom space with PS 270, across the street from Lafayette Gardens.
“At my child’s school, no cell phones are allowed in the classroom and the school strongly encourages parents to not have their children bring cell phones to school,” Holloway said.
The new changes would remove cell phones and electronic communication devices from the list of banned items in schools. Under the new regulation, principals will consult with School Leadership Teams in deciding among a range of options for their schools, depending on what they feel best meets the needs of their students, families and educators.
For schools that do not develop a written cell phone policy promptly, the default will be a policy that allows students to bring cell phones into the building, but requires that the school or students store the phones out of sight for the duration of the school day.
All cell phone policies must prohibit the use of cell phones during examinations, as well as during internal emergency preparedness drills and exercises, and be consistent with the DOE’s Discipline Code. Schools will have a range of options for discipline in cases where cell phones are misused, including confiscation.
The proposed changes must be approved by the Panel for Educational Policy. These changes will be voted on at the panel’s February 25 meeting. If passed, as expected, the new rule will go in effect March 2.