Consider two hypothetical scenarios.
A 12-year-old student gets out of school one afternoon and starts his trek home when he spots two of the school bullies that constantly harass him and other weaker students in his grade. They are on an approach vector and the young man starts to panic.
These bullies are not satisfied with just teasing him. In the past, they have attacked him physically, stolen money from him, and threatened his younger sister. He knows they are big trouble for him.
He remembers the cell phone in his backpack. He pulls it out of the side pocket and immediately dials his mom at home using speed dial. The bullies spot his phone activity and change direction. The mother, just a couple of blocks away in her car, speeds to his location. The young man is safe, thanks to his cell phone.
In a science classroom, a teacher is trying his best to educate the ninth graders in his charge about the periodic table of elements. In the back, a student has his book open and appears to be engaged in the assignment.
The teacher clandestinely strolls back to where the student is seated and spies a cell phone opened in his hands. The student is sending a text message to his girlfriend in social studies class down the hall. Despite appearances, he is completely off task.
School officials in most schools across the country, and here in Johnson County, cite the last scenario as an example of why they have banned cell phones in school. New York City schools have one of the most stringent anti-cell-phone rules in the country, and some parents are on the attack because of it.
Many parents would rather their children be allowed to carry cell phones while at school. While acknowledging that they should not be used during class time, and accepting the dolling out of punishment for such a violation, they claim cell phone possession should not be prohibited outright at school.
Indianapolis Public School bans all cell phones and other electronic devices, such as MP3 players, at school. Children are not supposed to have them in their possession.
Indiana had a state law that allowed for suspension from school for carrying cell phones or pagers. Edinburgh Community School Corp. still has such a policy on its books.
Detroit bans cell phones and the second offense means the student forfeits the phone to the school. Boston has changed its policy to allow cell phones in school, but not the use of them during class. Los Angeles has a similar policy.
In addition to the possibility that students may disrupt class with cell phones, schools point out that they are often stolen. And, some administrators claim that students have gotten by without them for hundreds of years, so there is no need to allow them now.
Humanity once got by just fine without cars or refrigerators, too.
Although cell phones can be misused and used at inappropriate times, the best solution would be to punish the offending behavior, not ban cell phones outright. I am both a parent and a teacher. I can see it from both sides.
I have confiscated cell phones from students trying to play games on them or send text messages during class. I have also seen students pull them out of their pocket merely to check the time. In those cases, I tell them to put them away because they are not allowed.
Cell phones can be life savers. They are one of the best personal security devices ever invented. And for schools to ban them outright simply because some students might misuse them is a sign the schools are out of step with reality and that their policies are anachronistic.