Anybody who follows news on the NYC schools has heard something about the ban on cell phones over the past few years. For anybody unfamiliar with NYC policy, students are technically banned from bringing cell phones into schools. The ban is, of course, nearly impossible to enforce unless a school has metal detectors -- but it's still district policy and Mayor Bloomberg has been a staunch defender.
The ban seems to have mostly received negative press (Alexander Russo calling it "idiotic-sounding" is what jogged my memory on this), and legitimate complaints certainly exist. Chief among them are parents who want to stay in touch with their kids on their way home from school (some kids have to travel quite a ways via public transportation or have other complicated arrangements) or in case of emergency.
But I have one problem with the people who criticize the ban, and that is this: what's the better solution?
Allowing students to carry cell phones with them has at least as many downsides. My school had a "we see it, we take it" policy, but most teachers are wary of taking students' property (I was nearly assaulted by a student after taking his cell phone) and it's impossible to see a cell phone every time a student takes one out anyway. Meanwhile, students waste time in class, send risque photos, cheat, spread word of fights, and otherwise participate in un-academic or dangerous behavior.
To me, at least in the school where I taught, the costs of having cell phones outweigh the benefits. The alternative would be some sort of compromise -- students are allowed to bring their cell phones to school, but have to check them in with an administrator when they arrive, for example. I'm not going to argue that there's not a workable solution out there, but I haven't seen one proposed that adequately solve the concerns of both sides. My ears are open.