Faced with heightened anxiety from students and parents in the wake of terrorist attacks and anthrax scares, school officials across the country say they are reconsidering bans on student cell phones on campus.
Last spring, Maryland and Oklahoma repealed statewide bans on student-carried cell phones, essentially turning the decision over to the heads of each school district. School officials elsewhere report they are ignoring the bans and instead are asking students to keep the phones turned off unless an emergency arises.
Rollbacks of cell-phone bans are accelerating because of the events of this fall, but administrators say they had been rethinking their positions for the past year or two anyway, as cell phones have become commonplace. The primary concerns that led to the banpossible illegitimate activity, such as drug-dealing, and class disruptionseem out of place in an environment in which half the students in a school carry cell phones. In many of these situations, parents have indicated they want their children to have cell phones, either for convenience or for safety.
However, officials in other states, such as Florida, are intent on maintaining the bans. They point out that students with cell phones can be extremely disruptive to the school environment and cause even more anxiety in these troubled times. Florida’s Escambia County has recorded a significant increase in student-initiated false bomb threats during school hours this year, which officials attribute to cell phone access.