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April 27th, 2006

Yesterday, the Department of Education began random security scanning at city schools. Aside from the hassles and the question of whether every school kid should be treated as a criminal the scanners renew the debate over cell phones in the schools.

Department of Education policy bans cell phones, and students at schools with metal detectors — which tend to be poor and largely minority have left their cell phones at home. But the random searches are casting a wider net, including prestigious schools such as Stuyvesant and LaGuardia high schools, where unofficial policy let kids have cell phones as long as they kept them stashed away during school hours.

Thats changed. These scanners are much more inflammatory, wrote It’s not just Stuy protesting – it’s actually just about everyone at schools who have already had the scanners installed.

Cell phones are the urban parent’s umbilical cord, the lifeline connecting them to children on buses, emerging from subways, crisscrossing boroughs and traipsing through unknown neighborhood, the Times reports. It goes on to quote Moira Kennedy, a psychiatrist with daughters at the Lab School and at Stuyvesant, who said the policy shows a big lack of awareness of the essential nature of having a way to communicate with your child during the day.”

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has reportedly said parents concerned about their children can always call the school office, indicating he has probably never tried to do this. Gothamist says, Ha! We’re sure the office workers will love that. If school officials want to keep this ban, they should at least give kids a chance to call or email their parents during the day. Or maybe parents should microchip their kids.

The cell phone furor came as the Department of Education announced that Carmen Faria, the top instructional official in the New York City public schools and a longtime teacher, principal and adminstrator, will retire.. A beloved and at times feared administrator, she seemed to know everybody in the nation’s largest school system, The Times observed. Some educators say she often provided a last defense against impractical ideas.

By on April 27, 2006, 10:58 am
In category: Civil Rights,Education,Gotham City,Tech | 25 Comments »

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25 Responses to “Please Leave a Message...”

  1. Larry Littlefield Says:
    April 27th, 2006 at 11:48 am

    This is a very bad policy.

    Parents don’t need to contact their kids if they are in school. They need to speak with their kids if they will not be going home directly after school. And the kids will need to call their parents if some kind of disruption prevents them from getting to or from school. We’ve had three transit shutdowns (terrorism, power outage, weather) in the past five years.

    The availability of a cell phone has been a comfort since my kids reached age 12 and I allowed them to start traveling around the city on their own. They call and let me know where they are whenever they move from place to place, and tell me when they will be coming home. That allows them the freedom to change their plans during the day.

  2. Bryan Castillo Says:
    April 27th, 2006 at 11:20 pm

    …taking away cellphones and i-pods isnt the solution for the school violence issue

  3. Vanessa Mazursky Says:
    April 29th, 2006 at 11:03 am

    This misguided policy set forth by Joel Klein and the DOE leaves our children unprotected and out there on the streets alone, relying on the kindness of strangers in the case of an emergency. New York City middle schoolers and high schoolers often travel long distances to go to school. They take public transportation and parents need to know that they have arrived safely and gotten home okay everyday. By banning cell phones, Klein and the DOE, are severing the lifeline between parent and child during the working week. I urge all parents with children in the New York public schools to speak up and let the administration know that this is not okay.

  4. Kier McAulay Says:
    May 1st, 2006 at 8:15 am

    What Chancellor Klein does not seem to grasp is that the problem is not calling the school but having a child being able to call for help when they are traveling to and from school. Perhaps the Department of Education would like to provide transportation for all these students on secure school buses. What that would only cost a billion or so dollars.

    The cell phone ban is an ill conceived policy and it will not stand.

  5. Gotham Gazette - The Wonkster » Blog Archive » Cell Phones Continued Says:
    May 1st, 2006 at 9:42 am

    […] Probably not since the school budget slashings of the Giuliani era has anything so incensed parents and students as the crackdown on cell phones in the schools, and the furor shows no sign of abating. As Wonkster noted last week, the Department of Education has begun random scanning at city high schools and middle schools, confiscating any cell phones, i-pods and other electronic devices they unearth in the process. (Personal note: My son, a student at Brooklyns MS51, had his cell phone taken away in a random screening today.) […]

  6. Sharon Chass Says:
    May 1st, 2006 at 10:26 pm

    I purchased my son his first cell phone in the September that he began middle school. I had no knowledge when we chose this school, which happens to be at least 60 blocks away, that cell phones were not permitted in the school. There were no notices during the 5th grade year, when we were making our choices for middle school, that cell phones were not permitted. There were no notices sent out during the 8th grade year either regarding cell phone confiscation, while the kids were all choosing their high schools. Perhaps if the parents of NYC public school kids were ever informed by the Board of Ed regarding cell phone confiscation rules we would have chosen a school closer to home. This not being the case, I ask Chancellor Klein to consider this: Isn’t it unfair to “change the rules in the middle of the game?” My son just last month chose his high school and it is even further away from home than his middle school, but we felt very confident that his cell phone would give us peace of mind during his morning and afternoon commutes. If Chancellor Klein insists on this newly publicized confiscation policy, then the city should be REQUIRED to create a good public middle and high school for each zone in the city. Then the kids can walk to school, they don’t need Metro cards, no commuting, they don’t need to leave their neighborhoods. Hmmm, isn’t that a novel idea?

  7. Larry Littlefield Says:
    May 3rd, 2006 at 6:49 am

    It is worth noting that pay phones are heavily vandalized, and working phones have gradually disappeared as there is no longer enough revenue to support them.

    Of course, in an emergency, the lines for any working phones would be long.

  8. Carmen Colon Says:
    May 3rd, 2006 at 7:51 am

    There is a petition to end the confiscation of cellular phones during random scannings and passing through metal detectors at in just 36 hours 1100 signatures were collected. Maybe if we collected 5000, the Mayor will have NO CHOICE (as weve been forced to live with these last four years) but to stop it.

    Safety of our children first and foremost. Many of our middle-schoolers travel farther than ever before. The cellular phone allows parents to reach them at a moments notice. Plain and simple. We do not want our children standing on lines in the office waiting to use the phone in case of an emergency and we do not want to have a hit or miss system if when we call the schools.

    The discipline code states that contraband will be confiscated if there is any evidence of wrong-doing. Passing through metal detectors just to get in school is not an excuse or a valid reason to relieve our children of OUR property. If my child is found ABUSING the use of the cellular phone, then contact the parent and inform them that the phone will be confiscated.

    Implementing this policy when there is evidence that other large cities have backed away shows lack of understanding, insensitivity and just how out of touch this administration is with the very people they are employed to serve. It will end up putting a young child in harms way and unfortunately until a child is hurt the arrogance and bull-headedness of these administrators will not see the error of their ways.

    If the residents of this city does not push back and insist that they are taken seriously when weighing in on issues that affect the children of this city then we all might as well throw in the towel right now. They threw out the baby with the bath water because people showed little or no interest in the fate of school boards and now all of our children are paying the price for it. You get as good as you give and when this city slept through all of this they ended up with exactly what they have today. Unqualified people in positions of power who are holding all the cards.

    Representatives for the Department of Education states that they are not violating the law. Then why dont they tell us exactly what classes were given to the parent leaders of our communities THIS SCHOOL year explaining in detail this policy, why they were implementing it almost a year a half after amending the policy and what communities provided comment at that time and if there was appropriate notification at that time. With the huge turnaround of parent volunteers that are leaving these posts in droves its not so hard to see that unless they are trained and advised (and not in a one hour meeting held once a month without prior notification as to the issue at hand OR a flyer home in my kids backpack for that matter) the communities will not be able to speak on any of the issues that affect our children. Check out whats happening on May 11th at: and see just how angry the parents are!

  9. Juan Santiago Says:
    May 3rd, 2006 at 11:54 am

    When I was in High School, we faced the same dilemnas that students faced today. Schools were violent and we also had to travel long distances. The only difference between then and now is that technology has enabled communication to become portable.

    If you check the average students cell phone bills, the parents are the least likely to be called. Text messages and phone calls to friends are a big majority of the cell phone activities.

    I have a compromise for the Department of Education that ensure them not having a problem with cell phones. If the school jams the signal inside the school as some private schools do, that would alleviate the problem of text messages and inappropriate phone usage.

    As for the i-pods, if you travel a long way to school, bring a book, read the newspaper or study. School is a place to learn and not a hangout spot.

  10. Betsy Combier Says:
    May 3rd, 2006 at 1:43 pm

    My oldest daughter watched the planes fly into the World Trade Center from her 10th floor classroom window at Stuyvesant High School, and I did not know if she was ok until she called me – after walking to West 72nd Street – at about 3PM, from the first telephone that she could find. I protest any policy that permits anyone to take the cell phones from my younger children still in the NYC public school system, who call me when they are on their way home or on their way to school, or I call them.

    Parents of children whose school is the “scanned school of the day” are telling their children to go home rather than have their cell phone taken away. At Brooklyn Tech, a school of 4,000+, the end of the day looked like a cellphone warehouse, and I am not sure how all the confiscated phones were returned to their owners – or if they have been returned at all? Isn’t this a violation of our children’s 4th amendment rights to be free from illegal searches and seizures?
    The police say that they will not remove cellphones from the schools because these items are not considered contraband. What happens if the wrong telephone is returned to a person who accesses private information?

    Finally, where are the statistics on the use of cellphones in the classroom for illegal activities? Are school officials punishing all children and parents for improper actions taken by a few students in schools where principals and teachers are not enforcing a simple policy of confiscating cellphones that are used in the classroom?
    This is ridiculous, outrageous, and must be changed. Come on, Mike, admit you made an error.

  11. Granville Leo Stevens Says:
    May 3rd, 2006 at 4:44 pm

    Parents are against the criminalizing nature of having their children being marched through a metal detector and having their cell phone confiscated as though it were a weapon, as the police describe any household implement used in an assault. We do not prefer this procedure over a ban.

    While a moratorium is considered which most parents would prefer, some, including myself, would like to participate in an approach where our children are partners in solving the problems with cell phones that you see with school administration, teachers, support staff and parents. The concept of a safe community being the responsibility of that entire community is one that NYPD discovered and one that is frequently lauded when criminals are apprehended with help from the community.

    Parents would also like to see a measured and tailored response where our children, in any school where true weapons and violence were a problem. Have the majority of student partners check or turn in their cell phones each day for pick-up upon dismissal, as their parents would agree and sign permission forms.

    However, I believe that if all of a school’s constituencies are given the issue of cell phone abuse, if any, including the students, and teachers, they can craft a school based policy where they collectively bear responsibility for effective enforcement or compliance.

    It is incredulous that as adults and educators, we are charged with molding the minds of future citizens in a democratic and non-racial society yet adopt approaches based on penitentiary or apartheid models. As such, the unnecessary “your way or the highway” is inimical to our moral responsibility as well as being arbitrary and capricious.

    Although too many African-American and Latino male dropouts are involved with the criminal justice system, a phenomenon DA Hynes refers to as unmitigated racism, you seem to ignore that your practices and policies are significant factors that contribute to a dual race-based school system and society.

    In addition to meeting with bodies like C-PAC, PEP, selected CUNY colleges, society philanthropists, fried chicken eating Negroes at Sylvia’s extolling hiring practices at charter schools, I dare you (as we did in our youth in the old city neighborhoods), to meet with others that are more representative of the million in the 1.1 million student figure that has to be updated. Sit with the parents who support Carmen Colon – ANYCEC, Sam Anderson; Basir Mchawi – BNYEE, Pedro Noguera (NYU), Edmund Gordon (Columbia), Michael Cirelli (Urban Word), iCOPE and others.

    As the kids say, get the real deal that you will not get from Teach America (what’s a bodega?) or from some Broad MBA or McKinsey consultants. You may be surprised to find that the overwhelming majority of our parents and their children might have solutions you could agree with that foster understanding and deep respect rather than denigrating colored, poor or immigrant families.

    If you are to have success in reforming the school system and repairing the harm it has inflicted over the decades since the Ocean Hill Brownsville conflict for community control, a most daunting and complex task requiring comprehensive solutions, you or anyone else must enlist the support and goodwill of the community and engage us in civil respectful, civil discourse, keeping uppermost in your mind that we are talking about OUR children, not yours or most politicians’ or most teachers’; not those who make the rules under which our children must live.

    We pray that you will see all that is being inflicted upon our children as a result of the politics of education, classicism, and racism; and that you will not rely on the filters of your perspective but commune with us who simultaneously feel the our pain compounded by that of our ancestors and progeny which compels us to act as though the emergency was a progrom that your community could feel and understand. Stand with us.

    Granville Leo Stevens
    Independent Parents Organizations
    212 473-9300

  12. Geoff Says:
    May 6th, 2006 at 9:15 am

    My family lives downtown and during the first weeks after 9/11 our cell phones were the ONLY phones that worked. The 1987 Chancellor’s Unannounced Initiative is dangerous, and, wholly unrealistic in this post-9/11 age. I want my commuting daughter to have her cell phone at all times for any emergency.

    The Mayor, Joel Klein and Ray Kelly should send their children and young relatives to school without cell phones and see how safe they feel!! They would never do this and are obviously hypocrites!

  13. Karen Says:
    May 7th, 2006 at 4:42 am

    Ok, im a student in a bronx public school. i think that cellphones SHOULDNT be taken away. and im not just saying this cause im a teen and bla bla. im saying thi because, you adults or bloomberg and watever are worrying about the violence and stuff. well taking away cellphones IS NOT GOING TO STOP ANYTHING!! it will just make violence in school WORSE because the kids will turn more rebellious. and they think parents spent money on cell phones just to have the kids NOT use them? i really dont care if they put a policy where we can’t bring cell phones to school, i am still brinhing mines. we don’t need that, we already have the policy where we can’t have it on during class..WELL THEN!? what else do you want? it’s not going to interrupt classes if it’s off!! and what if a parent needs to call their child and tell them they won’t be home after-school or that something happened to a family member (GodForbid) will the kids find out if they have no cellphone?? well, i wanna let bloomberg know that I’m still bringing my cellphone to school, and my mom will let me too. Thank you, any me.

  14. Eugene Weixel Says:
    May 8th, 2006 at 7:42 pm

    Bloomberg is very out of touch with the lives and feelings of average New Yorkers, and it seems that the people around him are as out of touch as he is or are “yes men.”

    This ban may actually play among his blue haired base in Forest Hills but it is a needless and cruel stressor to the school children and parents on the city.

  15. M Anfuso Says:
    May 9th, 2006 at 6:18 am

    In response to this issue and the recent letter recieved from my childrens schools about “threatening situations” and how your child should protect themselves from strangers(recent attempted abductions).
    In this day and age the best protection is to have immediate access in an emergency to contact help! If my 12 year olds have no choice but to walk to and from school(12 blocks) or to use buses and subways to get to and from school, we as parents should have peace of mind. I have no problem calling the school if i need to contact my children during school hours, but what happens when they are in transit? what happens when they are late from returning from school and you can’t contact them?
    the last paragraph of the letter on saftey and protecting our children stated “We Will continue to be diligent in getting our children to and from school safely. We continue to work collaboratively with community organizations and law enforcement to help protect our children” Is this not a contradiction to what they are telling us about cell phones?
    By no means should children use phones AT school, but they have the right to have them with them. we live in the City not a town where students of all ages take school buses to and from school. If our children are responsible enough to walk to school or take mass transit, then I say they are responsible enough to have cell phone with them!

  16. Gotham Gazette - The Wonkster » Blog Archive » Students Against Scanning Says:
    May 25th, 2006 at 7:07 pm

    […] Most of the attention on metal detectors in schools has centered on the cell phone ban, but some students want to put the focus on school security policies instead. […]

  17. LingForum Says:
    May 30th, 2006 at 6:20 pm

    Hmm, interesting

  18. Applied Linguistics Says:
    December 18th, 2006 at 7:53 am

    Yeah, interesting…

  19. Chris Tomkinson Says:
    January 25th, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    It is worth noting that pay phones are heavily vandalized, and that working phones have gradually disappeared as there is no longer enough revenue to support them.

  20. Canadian University Forum Says:
    April 24th, 2007 at 4:57 am

    We will see if the ban will bring anything or not.

  21. n100 Says:
    May 29th, 2007 at 11:20 pm

    same might soon happen to i-pods. :)

  22. Lessons for kids Says:
    July 7th, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    Another interesting article from your blog :) When will it stop….hopefully never

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