While it might seem, at first, that cell phone use should fall under the same category as pagers, which are banned in schools in many states, parents and students are challenging the notion that cell phones must remain outside of schools. The tragedy at Columbine High School in April 1999 reinforced the notion that cell phones can be integral to protecting students’ safety in an emergency.

School administrators increasingly are trying to create policies that balance students’ rights and convenience with the potential for distractions that cell phones present. Different states and counties have varying policies. Some ban pagers but allow cell phones. Some ban both. Some school districts ban all electronic devices, but administrators acknowledge that Palm Pilots and (soon-to-be-arriving) electronic books may force them to reconsider their policies.

Below are excerpts from electronic device policies of various school districts. They may be useful in helping you create a policy for your own schools:

• Plano (Texas) Independent School District (http://www.pisd.edu). “A paging device is a telecommunications device that emits an audible signal, vibrates, displays a message, or otherwise summons or delivers a communication to the possessor. The board may adopt a policy prohibiting students from possessing paging devices while on school property or while attending school-sponsored or school-related activities on or off school property.”

• Ferguson-Florissant (Mo.) School District. “Pagers, laser pointers, cell phones, or other electronic devices not part of the instructional program will not be allowed in school. They will be confiscated and returned only to a parent or guardian.”

• Cobb County (Ga.) Public Schools (http://www.cobb.k12.ga.us/%7Eboardpolicies). “Students are not allowed to use, wear, possess, or store in their locker: cellular telephones, communication beepers, other electronic communication devices, including all ‘look alikes,’ at school during the regular school day or at school-sponsored events. Any student found in violation of this policy shall be subject to in-school suspension.”

• Montgomery County (Md.) Public Schools (http://www.mcps.k12.md.us/departments/policy). “Except as provided …, an individual may not possess a portable pager on public school property. This section does not apply to: handicapped students using portable pagers for medical reasons; law enforcement officers; visitors on public school property for an authorized program, meeting, or function; faculty or staff members employed by a county board; members of any volunteer fire department, ambulance company, or rescue squad, who are designated to possess a portable pager on

public school property by the chief of the volunteer fire department, ambulance company, or rescue squad, and the school principal; and students whose portable pagers are contained in vehicles that are on public school property and are not found to be connected with criminal activity.”

• Allentown (Pa.) School District (http://www.allentownsd.org). “The possession of beepers, pagers, or other electronic communication devices by school district employees where supportive of the general welfare and the educational program of the school is endorsed. The possession of beepers/pagers/electronic communication devices by students has been found to be not only disruptive but, in many instances, contributory to illegal purposes, such as alcohol and other drug abuse.”