Milwaukee joins cellphone ban in schools

Administrators crack down on phones as they're increasingly used in cheating, classroom disruption and even gang violence.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

The controversy on students bringing cellphones to school is heating up as schools nationwide are instituting bans, reports the Associated Press.

Educators says that students use cellphones to cheat on tests, disrupts classroom activity and even use them to call in extra people when there's a fight.

"It's a mess," says Ed Kovochich, principal of Bradley Tech High School in Milwaukee. He broke up a fight last month that involved a non-student carrying a pistol who arrived after getting text messages from students. Under the new policy, Kovochich says, "If you use it, we take it."

After the 1999 Columbine school shootings and 9/11, parents have put pressure on school administrators to allow students to carry cellphones so parents could keep in constant contact.

Some New York parents are suing New York City public schools, which last year began enforcing a ban. Their lawyer, Norman Siegel, says the parents don't believe phones should be used in school. "The issue," he says, "is the right of the parents to provide safety to and from school."

The case was argued last week before a New York court; a ruling could be months away.

"Now they're starting to tighten up enforcement," says Ken Trump of National School Safety and Security Services, a consulting company based in Cleveland. "While technology has opened up many positive things, it also has a dark side."

Parents worry that students may need phones in case of an emergency, and students feel that the phones are so ubiquitous that they will probably just ignore the bans on cellphones. Regardless, schools are confiscating cellphones that are brought to school. Parents can apply for waivers if there are medical or other reasons for their children to have phones.

Electronic devices were banned here years ago, said Milwaukee schools superintendent William Andrekopoulos, but enforcement was eased so students could listen to music on the way to school. "It's unfortunate that ugly incidents have forced a change. We think it's definitely become a safety issue," said Milwaukee schools superintendent William Andrekopoulos.

Editorial standards