Cell Phones in schools, new rules set forth by NYC mayor

January 8, 2015

Everyone in NYC is talking right now about Mayor De Blasio’s decision to allow cell phones in schools. Parents and students all seem to like the idea. Educators seem torn, as am I, with the majority seeming to lean toward displeasure about the news. I am currently on Child Care Leave and don’t have much time for this blog, but I felt the need to post about this important decision. Please excuse any typos or incorrect grammar as I am not proofreading as carefully as I normally would.

 

The Background:

The former Chancellor’s Regulation was that students were not allowed to have cell phones (or any other electronics) in schools, period. This was difficult to enforce, and as the mayor pointed out the cell phone ban was most strictly enforced at schools with metal detectors. At these schools, students would either have to leave their phones at home, or lock them up. Some schools provided students a place to keep their phones during the school day, while others had private businesses set up trucks outside the schools and students could pay to have their phones kept there.

Schools like the ones I worked at, that didn’t have metal detectors, were left to figure things out themselves. In both of my former schools, while the Chancellor’s Regulation was in place, it wasn’t followed. There was an unwritten rule of “out of sight, out of mind.” Students were allowed to have their phones as long as we didn’t see them. This going against the regulation by lax administrators led to so many problems.

Students would actively answer their phone during class, would text, take pictures, videos, and play music. They would use the classroom outlets to charge their phones. When a teacher approached these students, the response would be “Principal X doesn’t care, why do you,” usually followed by an expletive. A student would walk right by the principal in the hallway, talking on his phone, and the principal would say nothing. How then could I dare discipline the student, or even ask them to kindly put away their phone, while I was trying to teach? The only time an administrator would mention a student having a phone out would be during an observation, in which they would say, “If your lesson was interesting enough, the student wouldn’t feel the need to take out their phone.”

This was my experience under the now former laws. I’m trying to figure out exactly what this decision means for schools.

Weighing both sides:

  • I have always been in favor of decision-making power being given to the most local level.   Administration, parents, students, and teachers know what works best for their schools, and should be given that power. In this regard, kudos to the mayor for giving more power to schools. However, I tend to think that most schools at the moment aren’t going to know what to do with this power. I’m pretty sure at my former schools, it’s going to be the same as always: out of sight, out of mind, except no discipline when students do take out their phones. And this is only going to get worse now that teachers can no longer say, “Sorry, it’s the Chancellor’s Regulations.” As with everything, we need strong principals in our schools who will meet with their teachers, make appropriate decisions, and properly enforce their rules. In schools that manage to do this, allowing students to have their phones could work out fine.
  • This regulation doesn’t apply only to cell phones, but to all electronics. Technology is lacking in so many of our schools. There are countless creative ways that teachers could use students’ phones and other technology in their classrooms. I allowed a student to use a phone in class once for educational purposes and I was reprimanded by administration. Teachers know their students and what is best for their classrooms. Again, if there is firm leadership, and clear rules that are enforced, this could be a great thing for schools.
  • Emergencies.  This is probably the biggest reason I have heard from parents, teachers, and educators regarding students being able to have their phones on them. I grew up in a time without cell phones (although beepers were quite popular), and if a parent or student needed to reach one another, we had to communicate via the phones in the main office. But, like my above bullet point, I believe if we have the technology, we should be able to use it. And schools seem to have become more dangerous places since I was a kid. Allowing students to have their phones could save lives, or at least put a parent’s mind at ease.
  • But what about the temptation? If I was a student now, my parents and I would love my being able to have a phone with me during my walk home from school, or if I felt threatened at any time during my school day. But would I have been tempted to take my phone out during class? I was a good kid, followed all rules even when it made me unpopular, didn’t cheat, etc. But phones are addictive. Could I really go the whole day with my phone in my pocket and not check Facebook?

Some things to think about. I’ll be curious to see how this plays out. I’m pretty sure we’ll be seeing a lot more videos being posted to the internet from students who are bored during class. As with everything else, it seems, I think this is ultimately going to hurt teachers in an era where everyone seems out to get us.

As always, I would love to hear from you. What do you think about this news? If you are out of NYC, how are cell phones handled in your schools?

 

Here is the link to the daily news article where I first read about this decision: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/exclusive-nyc-lift-ban-students-phones-schools-article-1.2068051

 

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