New regulations outlined for cell phone use in schools

February 9, 2015 Anna Spivak
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A month after the ban on cell phones in schools was lifted, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña and the New York City Department of Education have proposed new cell phone and electronic device regulations (A-413) for schools, posted for a 45-day public review period.

The change of heart came after eight years of backlash from parents and elected officials opposing the policy that prohibits students from carrying cell phones and electronic communication devices inside schools.

For a lot of parents, the news came as a relief, since they would now be able to stay in contact with their children on school days in case of an emergency.

“For the upper grades and especially the high school kids, they travel to go to school. It’s not like they all go to their local high school,” said Laurie Windsor, Community Education Council president for District 20. “They take a bus, take a train, they travel to different boroughs and parents want to be in touch with their kids when they’re traveling.”

Under the new regulation, which will be open to oral and written comments until February 24, students will be permitted to bring cell phones, laptops, tablets, iPads and other similar “computing devices” into school buildings.

The regulation also states that school principals must establish their own “school-based policy” and until one is adopted for the 2014-2015 school year, the school must implement one of two possible “interim” policies.

The first interim policy states that “students may bring cell phones, computing devices, and portable music and entertainment systems to school, but they may not be turned on or used” during school hours. The second option also allows students to bring cell phones to school, but “they will be collected upon entry to the building and stored in a designated location until the end of the day.”

Both Fariña and Mayor Bill de Blasio have backed the lift of the ban, saying that the reform has been “a long time coming.”

“When my daughter Chiara was in middle school, [my wife and I] saw the cell phone as something that was fundamental to our ability as parents to keep in touch with her, to make sure she was doing the right thing, and to make sure she was where she was supposed to be,” said de Blasio. “Then we saw our city government stand in the way of that.”

Fariña stressed that the responsibility now lies in the hands of the students, saying that the “challenge [now] is to make sure that students understand that this is a privilege and not a God-given right” and that they must “use it responsibly.”

The regulations also outline specifics about the use of cellphones during emergencies and fire drills, school quizzes, tests, or examinations, and usage inside locker rooms or bathrooms.

There will be a vote on the proposals at the February 25 Panel for Educational Policy meeting which will take place at the High School of Fashion Industries, 225 West 24th Street. The full notice outlining the regulations can be found online at


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