A call for reasonable policies

Hello? Give responsible students a chance to follow guidelines limiting cell phone use in school.

January 13, 2002

CARROLL County's school board, like others in the state, is wrestling with regulating cell phones in school buildings.

Board members seem prepared to ease their existing ban, allowing students to carry phones as long as the devices are turned off during school hours.

Proponents argue, rightly, that cell phones are important for students who must make after-school calls to parents. Pay phones are not always available (and sometimes the call to parents involves long-distance tolls). School office phones may be off-limits to students making personal calls or inaccessible by the time after-school activities end.

Rules can be set and enforced with appropriate penalties to keep phones turned off and in lockers during class hours. (Not everyone has a car in which to stow the contraband.) Banning telephone use on buses is also appropriate.

Permitting telephone use outside of class hours would be a reasonable accommodation in today's world, and is something a school system should support. It could relieve parents' worries and resolve transportation problems for students participating in extracurricular activities. It also could help provide a safety net for growing numbers of latchkey kids.

The 1989 statewide ban on cell phones in schools -- with jail terms and fines for repeat violators -- was repealed last year. That draconian law had been prompted in part by concern that students with wireless phones and pagers would be using them for drug dealing.

The real problem is the potential for distractions during classes. Give students a chance to respect limits on wireless phones, and disconnect those who don't.

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