Cell Phone Issue Dominates Parents' Discussions At DOE Meeting
08/10/2006 09:45 PM
The topic on the agenda at Wednesday night's Department of Education meeting was proposed changes to the public school discipline code — but NY1 Education Reporter Mike Meenan reports that the parents there were more concerned about the issue of cell phones.
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"I am not planning on telling my child not to bring his cell phone to school," said parent Monica Acuso. "Honestly, I am going to give him the cell phone and tell him to hide it."
Call it the elephant in the room. The ban on cell phones in schools, ordered last year by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has been fiercely contested by many parents who insist that safety concerns dictate that their children must carry the cell phone they bought for them at all times.
A coalition of parents opposed to the cell phone ban is suing the city, and their attorney offered what he calls a practical alternative to the current zero-tolerance approach.
"When I go to court, the state court, we have to turn off our cell phone," said Norman Siegel. "And if the cell phone goes off, you're subject to a penalty."
Several parents invoked that "use and lose it" approach as a reasonable policy that would keep classrooms free of distractions from cell phones — as well as iPods and other electronic devices — without sacrificing safety.
"My only concern is the safety of the children, and cell phones address that," said Ellen Weisman, a parent litigant in the lawsuit against the city.
Off-camera, Department of Education officials told NY1 that while parents may gripe about the cell phone ban, the policy will continue when schools reopen on September 5.
On other topics, the DOE is planning to increase penalties for lying, and to add new penalties for plagiarizing from the Internet. However, a PTA official took issue with both proposals.
"Especially the part that has to do with lying — I just don't think it should be in there," said Sandra Williams. "And the plagiarism at the kindergarten to fifth grade level, (has no) proper instruction in the school."
One change to the discipline code got little attention: principals may now recommend counseling for a student caught with a lit cigarette, rather than a mandatory suspension as in years past.