Are students more or less safe with cell phones in schools?
It all depends on who you ask.
The battle rages on in New York City as Mayor Bloomberg is holding firm on the ban of cell phones in city schools. But a recent opinion piece in the New York Post entitled “End the cell phone ban in schools. Should we?” triggered an invitation for me to debate the issue on a Sunday morning segment on Fox & Friends.
Take a minute to check out the debate and see where you stand:
I have always said advocates for allowing cell phones in schools very often are driven by parental and student convenience, but argue in support of cell phones in schools under the guise of school safety.
Advocates can point to a number of anecdotal and hypothetical scenarios that would logically support students having cell phones. But people typically don’t see how cell phones detract from safety in a crisis. In a real emergency, students using cell phones accelerates rumors, expedites parental flocking to the school, and in turn makes managing an emergency more difficult for school officials.
Students paying more attention to text messages and cell phone calls are at greater risk of missing a potentially life-saving directive of the adults responsible for keeping them safe. Parents who flock to the school faster than normal add to traffic and pedestrian congestion, can inhibit an effective evacuation of an area, and create a new group of people on-site for educators to try to keep safe if there is an active threat present. Flocks of parents can also block police, fire and emergency medical service traffic in and out of a crisis scene.
Schools have right to set safety, discipline policy
School officials have the right to set policy on issues related to maintaining an educational setting that is safe, orderly, and disciplined — period. There is no constitutional right to carry a cell phone. The leaders of schools, just like the leaders of workplaces, can set codes of conduct for the work environment. School leaders can do the same.
Cities and states are banning the use of cell phones, texting, etc. by adults who are driving. Most people support these measures, but many seem to question the right of school officials to set policy governing the use of cell phones by juveniles in schools? It doesn’t make sense.
New technology use adds a new dimension to the debate
There are a number of schools across the country that now allow students to use smart phones, along with i-Pads and other technology, as instructional tools. If schools choose to do so, I respect their right to make that decision but also caution them of the adverse consequences in a major crisis. These schools, along with those that simply choose to allow students to use cell phones, need to create very strong, redundant crisis communications plans and emergency response plans to deal with the onset of mass rumors, parental flocking, etc. in a real crisis.
I appreciate the expanding role of technology. I am open to adapting to these changes. But those arguing for cell phones under the guise of safety should own up to their real primary motivations: Student and parental convenience.
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