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Archive for Saturday, May 13, 2006

Cell phone ban causes uproar in New York

May 13, 2006

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— Elizabeth Casanola carries her cell phone everywhere - even through the metal detectors at her school.

The high school senior puts the phone under her pants by her waistline, where she knows she won't be patted down. Or she smuggles the phone into school in pieces - the battery separate from the main body.

A ban on cell phones in the nation's biggest school system is creating an uproar among parents and students alike, with teenagers sneaking their phones inside their lunches and under their clothes, and grown-ups insisting they need to stay in touch with their children in case of another crisis like Sept. 11.

Parents have written angry letters and e-mails, staged rallies and news conferences, and threatened to sue. Some City Council members are introducing legislation on their behalf.

But Mayor Michael Bloomberg and schools Chancellor Joel Klein have staunchly refused to drop the ban. They insist cell phones are a distraction and are used to cheat, take inappropriate photos in bathrooms and organize gang rendezvous. They are also a top stolen item.

Students have refused to give up their phones, saying the devices have become too vital to their daily existence and to their parents' peace of mind.

Steven Cao, 16, a sophomore at Stuyvesant High School  in Manhattan, poses for a portrait in front of the school with his cell phone, Thursday, May 11, 2006, in New York.  Cao lives on Staten Island  and says, "My mother, she needs me to have the cell to call me and check up on me."   A ban on cell phones in New York's school system is creating an uproar among parents and students alike, with teenagers smuggling their phones inside their lunches and down their pants, and grown-ups warning they need to stay in touch with their children in case of another crisis like Sept. 11.

Steven Cao, 16, a sophomore at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, poses for a portrait in front of the school with his cell phone, Thursday, May 11, 2006, in New York. Cao lives on Staten Island and says, "My mother, she needs me to have the cell to call me and check up on me." A ban on cell phones in New York's school system is creating an uproar among parents and students alike, with teenagers smuggling their phones inside their lunches and down their pants, and grown-ups warning they need to stay in touch with their children in case of another crisis like Sept. 11.

"My mother, she needs me to have the cell to call me and check up on me," said Steven Cao, 16, a sophomore who lives in Staten Island and attends Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan. He called the ban stupid.

Some parents would prefer a policy that lets students have cell phones but prohibits their use in classes.

New York's 1.1 million student school system has banned beepers and other communication devices since the late 1980s. But schools have long used an "out-of-sight, out-of-trouble" approach. Then, late last month, city officials began sending portable metal detectors every day to a random but small set of schools to keep out weapons. And the detectors have led to the confiscation of hundreds of cell phones.

New York has one of the country's toughest policies on student cell phones, and also bans other electronic devices such as iPods.

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