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RECENTLY, THE New York City Department of Education allowed the possession of cell phones in school. However, prior to this new policy, the original policy of “banning” the possession of cell phones was never truly enforced at Townsend Harris High School. Staff had already accepted the fact that students would have their cell phones. While rules discouraging cell phone use certainly existed, it was at the teacher’s discretion to enforce them. Consequently, there has been an inconsistency in the enforcement of the cell phone policy, with some teachers giving a demerit upon seeing a phone, others giving demerits when they hear one, and some not giving any at all. Hence, the original cell phone policy had always been unofficial in application.
The revised rules seem to offer more freedom and mitigate the anxiety associated with carrying a phone, but in reality, restrictions still apply. If phones are now allowed in class at the discretion of the teacher, why should we be penalized when our phones are seen elsewhere? Having them in our pockets does not constitute its misuse.
The new policy states: “If a cell phone rings, vibrates or is visible, any staff member may confiscate the cell phone. [Then] a referral will be issued using the accepted referral process.” The administration applies a cryptic double standard to cell phone use—it is considered a positive, supplemental learning tool in classrooms, but a threat to learning anywhere outside the classroom. The real dilemma that occurs due to this ambiguous policy lies in the fact that we do not know what is characterized as blatant misuse.
Just as the Wi-Fi policy clearly defines the misuse of the internet, it is necessary for administration to implement a policy like this for cell phones because in the case of the cell phone policy, many questions remain unanswered even after its publication.
This lack of clarity demonstrates fear on the part of administrators and educators.
The prospect of integrating a device that can alter the future of education and also the way students behave in an academic environment overwhelms the administration due to the unfamiliarity. Cell phone use in school is somewhat foreign and unconventional. It’s not necessarily “wrong” or “bad”—it’s just a culture the administration does not want to permit here at THHS.
THHS students are deemed to be mature and intelligent. If so, is it not safe to assume most of us would not abuse the rules established? The school should have faith in its teachers and its discipline system so that students won’t pull out their phones at inappropriate times.
Even so, individual misbehavior will not cease. Cell phones will not cause an increase in improper conduct by any means, but rather an increase in their positive application. Instead of implementing a “ban” that’s ringing with obscurity, we should instead focus on reaching a compromise between students and administrators.