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Dewey demands end to cell ban

As John Dewey High School remained under lockdown and parents were worried sick about their children, students did the only thing they could – pick up their cell phones and called their parents. As a result, there’s renewed calls for the city Department of Education (DOE) to eliminate its ban of cell phones in public schools. “This shows a very good example of positive uses of cell phones that probably can’t adequately be substituted otherwise,” said Jim Devor, first vice president of District 15’s Community Education Council (CEC), which opposes the city’s cell phone ban. On March 27, Dewey, which is located in Gravesend, remained under lockdown for several hours as police officers searched the school building for a gun allegedly carried by a student. During the search, students used their cell phones to call their parents and tell them they were okay. “Can you image the panic that would have set in for parents that couldn’t hear from their kids?” said City Councilmember Lew Fidler. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and DOE officials say they’ve banned cell phones from public schools because students have used phones to cheat on exams or disrupt classes. But opponents of the ban believe that students should be allowed to bring phones to school but only be reprimanded if the devices are used. State Assemblymember William Colton said the DOE’s total ban is a “misguided policy.” “The cell phone is a matter of security. If they get into trouble, if they’re traveling from home or to school, they can reach their parents,” Colton continued. “Parents want their children to have cell phones.” Although critics of the cell phone ban say students’ use of cell phones during the lockdown at Dewey is proof that phones should be allowed in schools, they remain doubtful that the city will ever eliminate the ban. “I don’t think it’s going to change anything. They’ve been very stubborn in their choice,” said Christopher Spinelli, president of District 22’s CEC, which has passed several resolutions challenging the cell phone ban. “I don’t know what it will take for the DOE to actually acknowledge error,” Devor said. “As a CEC member, I know that at many if not most schools in my district, there is no cell phone ban. There’s a tacit understanding that if you don’t use it or show it in the school, nobody’s going to bother you.”

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