Sunday, February 7, 2010

Cell Phones In School

I agree 100%---------First let me say,I do not think any child under 19 should have a cell phone who still lives with parents unless the child has a job buys their own phone and pays their own phone bill------------

Student Cell Phones Should:

Be Prohibited in K-12 Schools

By Jon Akers, Kentucky Center for School Safety

Let me begin by saying that I am acutely aware

that my position on the issue of allowing

students to have cell phones in their possession

at school, during school hours, is a minority opinion,

at least as far as the general public is concerned.

Nevertheless, this is a long-held opinion for me, and

I still stand  rmly by it. In fact, as a veteran educator

of thirty years (twenty- ve of which I served as a

school principal) and, as the current state director

of school safety, I am only  rmer in my opinion

after the rapid increase of add-on features to cell

phones in recent years, i.e. cameras, Internet, text-

messaging, games, music, ability to record, etc. In

short, the technological capability of the cell phone

has changed drastically since its inception. My

opinion has not. I should also hasten to add, based

on the countless number of principals with whom I

have had the opportunity to interview in my current

role, my opinion is one that is shared by the vast

majority of school principals in the state. As a matter

of fact, I have yet to speak to any school principal that

is actually in favor of allowing students to have cell

phones in their possession in school during the school

day. Thus, the central question becomes, “Why are

most school principals in Kentucky against students

having cell phones at school while most parents,

students and others in favor of it?” What is at the

crux of this debate and why have cell phones become

so prevalent in our schools? I will attempt to answer

those questions based on my school experiences and

some research that I have done on the topic.

First, in my research regarding student cell

phone use, I have learned that there have been

hundreds of policies developed in states around

the country attempting to control students having cell

phones at school. However, to date, forty-nine states

have either abandoned or deferred the decision over

to their local school districts (an action I consider to

be “passing the buck” rather than to risk making what

would most likely be an unpopular decision). When

handed this decision to make, many districts and/or

schools initially developed strict policies to control

the problem; however, after being met with strong

resistance, many revised those policies to be more

lenient, largely surrendering to student and parental


As one quickly discerns when looking into this issue,

few have chosen to take on the considerable challenge

of controlling student cell phones in schools.

A prime example can be seen in our own state where

many schools are struggling with the issue of students

being allowed to have cell phones in school. KRS

158.165 basically leaves the issue of “use of personal

telecommunication devices by a public school

student” to each school district. As a result, there are

widely varied speci cs and technicalities in the school

policies across the state. Some distinguish between

students “possessing” and “using” cell phones. Many

mention “regular school hours”, “regular school days”

and “instructional time”, but fail to de ne the terms.

A few districts allow each school to set the rules for

cell phone use and, of the one-hundred sixty Boards

with cell phone policies, nine speci cally ban the use

of cell phones on school property and eight mention

allowing students who are volunteer  re ghters to

possess cell phones while at school. Clearly, there is

very little consensus on what to do about this problem,

which simply serves to fuel the unending debate.

Secondly, principals have expressed extreme

frustration to me regarding the enforcement

of Board policies that attempt to address cell

phone usage in the schools. I have been told that

many parents and students blatantly violate their

Board of Education policies concerning this issue.

Some principals say that despite the policy being

well written and published in several documents

(Board of Education Policy, Student Code of Conduct

and Student Handbooks) many students and parents

simply do not believe it applies to them…therefore,

the principal oftentimes must contend with the wrath

of both the students and parents when enforcing these


Those policies, generally, are either that:

1) Students are prohibited from having phones in their

possession during the school day; or;

2.) Students are permitted to possess cell phones

during the school day, but the cell phone must remain

in the “off” position, a policy most principals say is


In most cases, when a student breaks the policy, the

cell phone is con scated and returned at the end

of the week to the child’s parent; a second offense

usually results in the phone being kept longer. Even

more frustrating to principals is that these policies

are often compromised when superintendents (or

their designees) are pressured by parents/guardians to

make an exception for a child’s case when he/she has

violated the cell phone policy. As many principals

have told me (and I, too, have experienced) when one

exception to a given rule is made, others perceive

and express that they are entitled to the same special

treatment. Many times when this occurs, such policies

are seriously weakened.

But, still the question remains, “Why, did many

school districts initially respond to the advent of cell

phones with such strict policies?” Well, I can only

reply based on my experience as a principal and

from what I have been told repeatedly by numerous

other principals; that is that when students have cell

phones in their possession during school hours, many

disciplinary problems stem from their abuse. Whether

they are being stolen by other students who may not

have a cell phone or just want a fancier one, used

to phone in bomb threats to the school or to harass

another student, the valuable time of educators is

frequently being used to address cell phone abuse

by some students. Exacerbating the problem are the

features that competitive cell phone companies are

quickly adding to their respective phone services

mentioned above. Even at best, they are a distraction

to students in a learning environment. Indeed, if some

will debate whether cell phone use should be allowed

for someone while driving a motor vehicle, then could

not the argument be made also that it is more dif cult

to compute calculus while listening to an iPod,

something many students are allowed (or either sneak)

to do while in class working on assignments?

1. Bullying or harassing other

students with unwanted voice or

text messages

2. Text-messaging or phoning

friends during class time

3. Cheating (i.e., recording,

sending or receiving test questions

and/or answers)

4. Secretly taking inappropriate

photographs of other students and

distributing them

5. Photographing exam answers to

use during the exam

6. Phoning in bomb threats to the school, which

cannot always be traced

7. Phoning others outside the school to meet at

the school during or after school to witness or

participate in a  ght or confrontation

8. Experts have stated that cell phones could be

used to detonate a bomb if it is near or on the

school’s campus.

9. In a true emergency, massive cell phone usage

can overload cellular phone systems, crippling

critical of cial and emergency communication.

10. In larger school districts, gang members have,

reportedly, used cell phones to communicate

with one another during school hours.

11. School administrators and law enforcement

of cials have learned that drug deals have been

made via cell phones during school hours.

12. During school emergencies, massive numbers

of students have called their parents via

cell phones and, as a result, those parents

have bombarded the campuses, thwarting

emergency protocols and procedures.

Thirdly, one of the primary reasons for the wide

prevalence of cell phones in our schools is that

parents are demanding to have immediate access

to their children while they are at school. Parents

are quick to single out school shootings (such as at

Columbine) and the terrorist attack on September 11th

as compelling reasons to have their children constantly

accessible to them via cell phone. Undoubtedly, their

feelings in this regard are understandable, but the fact

is, thankfully, that these occurrences are extremely

rare and the possibility of such a tragedy occurring at



Caused by




any school is miniscule; the likelihood of a student

being able to use a cell phone during such a time,

similarly small. Moreover, if to communicate with

their parents was the only reason that students used

cell phones during school, I and other principals would

not advocate prohibiting them from having them.

Unfortunately, I believe this is far from the case.

Finally, the city schools in New York,

Philadelphia, Detroit and New Orleans, along

with the Milwaukee Public Schools have

banned cell phones due to many of the reasons I

have cited above. The abuse of these communicative

devices by many students has simply ruined their

intended use. (And…don’t even get me started on the

Internet issues, i.e.,,, etc!)

So, what’s the answer? Well, I tend to be rather

conservative when I’m asked to provide a viable

solution to this problem. I say, “Leave the cell

phones at home and bring back pay phones!” We

seem to have survived without cell phones before

their invention. Furthermore, I feel that the current

barrage of illegal and immoral acts committed daily

(on cell phones by students during the school day)

far outweigh the parent’s right to talk (and in some

cases, interfere) with their children during a school


In conclusion, school of cials can rest assured that

they have at least one ally in the state that will support

their position if called upon to do so. I have carefully

weighed the pros and

cons on the issue, and I

believe that if we want

academic achievement

to abound in our schools,

we must  rst make the

learning environment

as safe and emotionally

stable for all students as

we can. Students having cell phones during the school

day in school does not work toward that end.

As a seasoned school administrator and the executive

director of the Kentucky Center for School Safety, I

rest (what I  rmly believe to be) my strong case.

Suggestions for Cell Phone “Situations”

1. Leave things as is. (De nition of some for

“insanity”: Doing the same thing repeatedly but

expecting different results.)

2. Attempt to work with parent groups, chronicling

and explaining all of the negative issues associated

with cell phones, both academically and

behaviorally. (Incidentally, there are still some

parents today who refuse to allow their children to

take a cell phone to school. Perhaps, these parents

could discuss with parent groups how their children

manage to survive during the school day without

these devices.)

3. Have school of cials to review their disciplinary

data to determine the extent to which this problem

detracts from instructional time. Then, if the

case can be made that these devices truly create

a signi cant academic or behavioral distraction,

share it with the local Board and request that they

revisit their current policy to determine if it can be


4. Create speci c policies that address the more

abused features of the cell phones, such as the

camera, etc. (Cite the problem of the inappropriate

abuse of them in locker rooms and restrooms.)

Finally, what have I hoped to accomplish by sharing my

opinion, which just happens to be the opinion of many of

my fellow-principal colleagues? At the very least, my hope

is that:

Ø it will stimulate discussion between all school

leaders and their parent base to look, realistically,

at the serious, negative implications inherent in

student possession of cell phones in schools during

the school day;

Ø school leaders will weigh these issues to determine

the parent willingness to request that these policies

be tightened; and,

Ø that more school districts will stand up and take

the unpopular position of prohibiting their students

from having cell phones during the school day,

except during extreme situations, such as when it

has been determined that a student has a gravely ill

loved one.

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