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Should Cell-Phones Be Allowed In School Settings?
Generally, cell phones are frowned upon in school settings and for some good reasons too. Yes, they can cause distractions- which can lead to lowering of grades, impulsive behaviors, and even attitude problems. Cell phones seem to be at the beginning of a long list of grievances, but what some people don’t realize is that having cell phones in school can be a matter of life or death. Not only are cell phones an important tool in keeping kids safe, they are also being implemented in education in helpful, interactive ways. These communicating devices suddenly carry a lot more weight, especially when they help show your rights to freedom of speech.
Balancing safety and security is always a tricky decision, but in the end, regards for safety always wins out, especially when there are lives on the line. One may not think it, but a cell phone can be the next thing to save your life, most especially in school. Schools keep an outward appearance of being a safe environment, but you never know when student’s lives can be endangered by other kids. Take the Columbine Massacre, for instance. On April 20, 1999, teenagers Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris walked into Columbine High school in Littleton, Colorado carrying sub-machine guns and self-made bombs with the intention of doing some serious damage. Thirteen innocent people were murdered, and many more would have followed if it weren’t for some students and their cell-phones.
Teenager Bob Sapin calls the police on his cell phone while hiding for his life. He describes what the two murderers look like, and the location of the school. Another student, James, dialed 911 once he realized that the phone lines were jammed. If these two and many others wouldn’t have called the police and an ambulance, it could’ve been hours until help had arrived, hours in which more students would have been killed.
Cell phones are also a vital instrument in preventing kidnappings, or help save the victims of a kidnapping. On an NAU campus, a student was kidnapped, drugged, and assaulted. Another death would’ve made it to the headlines if that student didn’t have her cell-phone on her, which she used to send a message to her roommate, pleading for help. Luckily, the police arrived and were able to save her from further harm.
Safety issues don’t only extend to kidnappings and murders, but to natural disasters and national security issues too. In cases such as hurricanes and tornadoes, phone lines can easily be obliterated, leaving students without a tether to the outside world in a dangerous situation. With the aid of cell phones, students and teachers in a school can contract help. Tornadoes form without a warning, catching a school unawares. Fires can raze down an entire school, natural disasters crop up at any time, catching you unprepared.
Though it may seem the opposite of what we are led to believe, cell phones actually are helping students be prepared, and not just in times of danger. There are studies being done that show cell phones being implemented in ways helpful towards learning. “The study followed teachers in three schools who began exploring ways to use students’ personal phones as well as additional borrowed smart phones….The researchers came away with a yes verdict and offered some specific ways in which cell phone technology could support learning.” (Thomas, “Cell phones- Time to Lift the Ban on Mobiles in the School Setting?”).
In these researches, teachers found that they could use cell phones in a variety of ways. They recorded using it as a stopwatch, photographing experiments, synchronizing calendars and timetables, and transferring information between school and home. The phones also had many positive side affects on the kids. The kids were more motivated to do their school work, and cell phones replaced other devices, such as calculators, dictionaries, textbooks even!
In Abilene Christian University, iPhone 3G’s were handed out to the students and asked to use them during school. The students found that they could brainstorm ideas using these phones, receive virtual handouts and assignments from teachers, and even the teachers saw that they could use them to monitor attendance. As William Ranklin, the co-director of mobile learning research in school said, “This is a new platform for learning, in the same way a laptop or a desktop was a new platform.” (Kharif, “Cell Phones Make Headway In Education”). Speaking of laptops, cell phones are a viable replacement for them. Cell phones cost much less than laptops, in fact, an iPhone costs around two-hundred to three-hundred dollars, whereas a single laptop costs around seven-hundred dollars. That’s a huge price difference, one that could save schools thousands. Not only are these cell phones cheaper than laptops, they’re also more accessible. A lot of kids don’t have access to computers, but having a cell phone is an easier, cheaper solution to that problem.
Students using phones actively in school are also seeing their grades rising. In Crosby Ironton High School, students who were taught with cell phones performed 25% better than those without on the algebra EOC exam. Teachers also agree that using cell phones in class keep the students more interested in what they are learning. Every single cell phone experiment in school settings has met with success, showing higher grades, more motivation, easier and cheaper ways to teach, and a clamoring for the time when all cell phone bans on schools are lifted.
As students use their cell phones in school environments, they don’t realize that they are exercising one of their most important rights- the freedom of speech. “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble…” (US Constitution, Amend. I). Due to the elastic clause, “The [1st Amendment] applies to any portable device that can be used to create, receive, access, or store electronic data” (First Amendment News, 2011). This means that the First Amendment applies to cell phones. Banning cell phones from school is a violation of students’ rights to the First Amendment, especially since students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse
gate.” (Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 1969).
Cell phones have become such a part of daily life, and they’ve found several ways to be useful, instead of just being communicating devices, especially in school. With all the danger to it, banning cell phones from school is almost a crime, along with violating students’ natural born rights to free-speech. Not only that, but phones are making a statement in classrooms, implementing themselves in ways that help students, not just cause a distraction. Banning cell phones from schools can have severe repercussions, which is a serious drawback considering how far we have gotten in the field of cell phones, and their rights and uses tied in.