Bloomberg holds fast against cellphones

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is seeing red over cellphones in schools and his take-no-prisoners attitude is making parents angry.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is seeing red over cellphones in schools and his take-no-prisoners attitude is making parents angry, the New York Times reports. Since aggressively removing students' phones earlier this year, the Mayor has been upsetting parents and other policymakers.

In some corners of the administration, there is a sense of frustration over the controversy and a desire to see it simply go away. Signs of opposition seem to be everywhere these days, from demonstrations on the City Hall steps and threats of lawsuits to proposed legislation and mounting pressure from other elected officials.

"Anywhere you go now, people are reacting and saying, 'We don't get this, we don't understand,' " said Betsy Gotbaum, the city's public advocate. "I don't understand why we don't just let the school year end and sit down and talk about some really good, well-thought-out policy that will work."

Parents want a compromise under which phones would be kept out of the classrooms, but Bloomberg says no.

"We don't have the resources, we don't have the space or the money to check phones and uncheck them at the end of the day," Mr. Bloomberg said on Friday on his weekly call-in radio program. "Schools are for learning, and we're going to focus on learning."

"You have to have systemwide policies, and policies have to be followed systemwide to be effective, whether you're dealing with cellphones or promotion," said Dennis M. Walcott, the deputy mayor for education and community development. One of the goals in changing the city's enormous education system, Mr. Walcott said, was to eliminate the wide variation in practices all over the city and instead "make sure you have a coherent system."

Not only is Bloomberg out of touch, he's dismissive.

The 500 calls about cellphones to 311 last month were an infinitesimal percentage of the total 311 calls, he said on Friday on his radio program, and were "probably the same person calling in 500 times."

For the moment, as both sides are standing firm, there appears to be little room to end the impasse. Carmen M. Colon, president of the Association of New York City Education Councils, an advocacy group for parent leaders, said her organization was turning to the children with a contest that would offer $200 prizes to middle- and high-school students for the best ideas to resolve the problem.

"We've done our complaining," she said. "Now we've got to sit down and come up with a solution."

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