I was quoted in this article in the New York Times about what the impact will be of removing the ban on students using or even having cell phones in New York City.
As New York prepares to lift its longstanding ban on cellphones carried by students in schools, it joins an increasing number of cities, including Chicago and Miami, where school leaders are yielding to the ubiquity of mobile phones and the futility of trying to keep them out of the classroom.
Some education experts say schools have a responsibility to help students learn self-control over devices that will be integral to the rest of their lives.
“Did kids never doodle in the columns of their textbooks and always pay rapt attention to their teachers?” said Sylvia Martinez, former president of Generation YES, a nonprofit group that helps schools integrate technology, and co-author of “Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom.” “Blaming the cellphone or laptop for kids being distracted is kind of silly.”
Administrators acknowledge that banning cellphones can actually create discipline problems. In Chicago, where individual principals set cellphone policies, the district changed its citywide policy regarding suspension this year to differentiate between social and disruptive uses of mobile phones. Before the policy change, a student who used a mobile phone at all in school could be suspended.
In New York, Ron Gorsky, who recently retired as the principal of Concord High School on Staten Island, said trying to enforce the ban caused more conflict than having phones openly in schools would.
“I’ve seen the stress when we take phones away from students,” he said. “They’d rather leave school than give up their phones.”
The haphazard enforcement of the cellphone ban in New York also disproportionately affects low-income minority students, who tend to be the majority in high schools with metal detectors at the entrances, where mobile phones are confiscated.