Cell Phones in Schools Allow for Distraction and Violent Pranks?
> 5/8/2006 2:01:27 PM

Several European high schools moved to ban student cell phones in response to reported growth of the phenomenon called "happy slapping," a practice in which teenagers use their cell phone cameras to record acts of public violence which are then shared online. A recent incident at a vocational school outside of Paris, where a student's friend recorded him beating his teacher, served to alert some officials to what they see as an expansion in low-level crime involving public attacks on and humiliation of unknowing targets. French education officials in particular are wary of the trend, which they see as a symptom of larger social unrest arising from cultural and economic divisions which were brought to a violent head in last fall's youth riots. The phenomenon first arose in England, where law enforcement officials state that it spread from the UK's garage music scene to public transportation hubs, playgrounds and parks across the country. Most of these incidents accomplish little beyond annoying their victims, but some worry about escalating degrees of harassment and wonder if taking cell phones away from students may help stem the tide of attacks.

In New York, mayor Michael Bloomberg refused to compromise on his decision to ban the possession of cell phones by public school students. On a recent radio show, Bloomberg fervently asserted that "we're not going to allow guns...knives...box cutters...iPods and cell phones, these kinds of things" into our schools. Though it's certainly reasonable to look for ways to prevent students from interrupting the learning process by receiving calls, taking pictures, or watching movies on their phones during class, a very tenuous line of logic connects Bloomberg's list of unacceptable items, and some believe his stance to be too restrictive. Though teachers will certainly face minor problems in ensuring that all phones are shut off during class, other local officials suggest it's neccessary to allow student use of phones outside of class in order to make emergency calls or arrange transportation. As certain technologies become more prevalent, the debate will continue, yet despite isolated instances of illegal behavior facilitated by electronics, one can't help but remind those concerned that there's a huge difference between cell phones and handguns.

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