New York City schools set off a firestorm this week by doing random searches for weapons and confiscating cellphones, the New York Times reports. School administrators are out to lunch, city parents say, if they think they're sending their kids to NYC public schools without cellphones.
"I have her call me when she gets out of school, and she's supposed to get on the bus right away," Lindsay Walt, an artist, said of her daughter, Eve Thomson, 11, a sixth grader at Salk. "Then I have her call me when she gets off the bus, and I have her call me when she gets in the house. The chancellor will have civil disobedience on his hands. No one in New York is going to let their child go to school without a cellphone."
Dr. Moira Kennedy, a psychiatrist with daughters at the New York City Lab School for Collaborative Studies and at Stuyvesant High School, said the policy indicated "a disregard for the concerns of parents," adding, "I think it shows a big lack of awareness of the essential nature of having a way to communicate with your child during the day."
The civil disobedience started when NY police set up a random scanning operation at a Brooklyn school and confiscated 129 cellphone, 10 CD players, 2 iPods, a boxcutter and a knife. Schools Chancellor Joel Klein defended the policy. "We all understand the concerns that parents are talking about, but I think they have to see it from our point of view," he said. "There is always an enforcement issue, but the enforcement issue doesn't mean the policy is wrong. And obviously through the work we're doing now, I think that will improve enforcement."
Among the clueless: teacher Lisa Miller, who said, "If it's really an emergency, they can call the school."
That doesn't sit well with parents like Jane Reiff. "We sit here and we tell our parents, 'Care about your kids, do this, do that,' and then you say, 'You've just lost that safety net that you rely on,' " said Reiff, a Queens parent whose daughter Nikki, 12, uses her cellphone to call for a ride if the friends she usually walks home with are out sick. "It's just not safe out there."
Given how important cellphones are to people's lives, what exactly is the objection to having them in school? That they're one more think requiring classroom discipline? After all phones can be banned from the classroom and kept in lockers. Penalties for cheating can be made stiff enough to prevent all but the most apathetic. Maybe administrators just want school to be like it always was.