On April 26, New York City police officers set up
mobile security scanners at the Acorn High School for
Social Justice in Brooklyn. They seized 129 cell
phones, 10 CD players, two iPods, a box cutter and a
knife. Such searches and the ban on cell phones
have prompted protests by high school students across
Cell phones have long been banned in the city's public
schools, but principals at schools without metal
detectors, such as ACORN High School, often ignored
the policy, and students got away with carrying cell
phones, as long as the phones did not make noise in
Now all students have to obey the rules because of a
new Department of Education security policy. City
police officers have started randomly showing up at
schools that don't have metal detectors and using
mobile scanners to keep weapons out of the schools,
according to a department press release. But the
police are also confiscating cell phones, iPods and
other banned electronic devices. If cell phones are
seized during a scan at school, school officials
decide when to return the phones.
Petitions and Protests
Schools Chancellor Joel Klein says the ban is
necessary because students use the phones to cheat on
exams, take pictures in locker rooms and call friends
to help in a fight. But students and their parents say
they count on cell phones to stay in touch before and
after school. Some city public high school students
have been using various tactics to protest the ban,
with some students threatening to walk out of class if
the metal detectors appear at their schools.
Sharon Weisberg, a freshman at Edward R. Murrow High
School in Brooklyn, organized a petition drive
demanding that students be allowed to keep their
phones at school for safety reasons. She has collected
signatures from more than 700 of the 4,000 students
who attend the school.
She said she plans to send her petition to Mayor
Michael Bloomberg's office when she gets at least
1,000 signatures. She's also working with students at
Fort Hamilton, Franklin Roosevelt, Stuyvesant,
LaGuardia and Port Richmond High Schools who are
circulating their own petitions.
"I was enraged at the stupidity of the mayor. His
decisions are idiotic and somebody needed to tell him
that," Sharon said.
New Youth Connections writer Dorena Belovet Ruff, 17,
understands Sharon's anger. Two years ago, she
attended night school at Canarsie High School, which
has permanent metal detectors. Her mother worried
about her commuting home at 10 p.m. without a phone.
"She's like, 'If something happens, I want you to be
able to call home,'" Dorena said. "She didn't like
So Dorena, and other students at Canarsie, snuck their
cell phones into school -- some wrapped phones in tinfoil
and pretended it was a sandwich, she said. Dorena
would walk through the metal detector and when it
beeped, quickly slip the phone in her bag that had
already made it safely to the other side.
But with all students -- not just those at schools with
metal detectors-- facing the loss of their cell phones,
more people are speaking against the policy. Judith
List, assistant principal of Murrow's Communication
Arts Department, said she's unhappy with the mayor's
decision. She has a son in the ninth grade. "I need
communication with my child, just like any other
parent," said List. "I feel that as long as the
student doesn't take it out in class, there should be
no problem in carrying them." All students will suffer
because of students who abused this privilege, she
Parents with children attending the New York City Lab
School in Manhattan have suggested that children go
home when scanners come to their school, according to
comments posted on a Yahoo discussion group.
One Lab School parent told her son: "If you see them
at school, just turn around and go home."
"Cell phones are essential for communication," said
Alex Rich, 16, a Lab School student. If they try to
take away my electronic devices, I just won't go into
Ilya Arbit and David Schmutzer are writers for the teen-written magazine New Youth Connections, published by Youth Communication.
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