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Published: Wednesday, 8/13/2003

Hold all classroom calls

Pity the poor teacher in Michigan whose school district is ringing and beeping off the wall with cell phones and pocket pagers. A new state law lets districts decide for themselves whether students can carry the personal communication devices to school.

In a saner time, Michigan banned cell phones and pagers from schools, but times have changed. Apparently bending to pressure from some parents, Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed a law that gives school districts authority to set their own policy on the portable irritants.

Ohio has always left the issue up to local school systems. Those with any ounce of sense have chosen to prohibit the contentious items. To its credit, Toledo Public Schools does not permit students to use cell phones during the school day and generally confiscates the devices from those who break the rules.

Just because “cell phones have become a way of life for some people,” as T.J. Bucholz, of the Michigan Department of Education notes, doesn't mean teachers and school administrators have to put up with the disruptions. It's hard enough to get the undivided attention of students being taught reading, writing, and arithmetic without Johnny or Jane chatting on the cell phone or answering a page.

Sure the items are handy in an emergency or special exceptions, but they're inappropriate in a classroom. Busy moms like Bedford PTA Council president Rosie Jeffrey concur. “I have five kids and none of them needs a cell phone or a pager. If you need to get a hold of them, the school has a phone.”

That's what parents used to do before the advent of a cell phone in every hand.

While the superintendents of Bedford Public Schools and Tecumseh Public Schools welcome local control on the issue neither anticipates any change from established policies banning student cell phones. “One person's right to a telephone [shouldn't] interfere with a student's right to learn,” said Richard Fauble who leads the Tecumseh system.

Somebody should communicate that to parents in Michigan and elsewhere whose compulsion to stay in contact with their school children may be more disruptive than helpful.

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