MANHATTAN — The city is set to lift a longtime ban on cellphones in public schools.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced Wednesday that school principals will be allowed to work with teachers and parents to develop guidelines on where and how students can use their phones in schools.
The announcement, first reported in the Daily News, reverses a rule that required kids to leave their devices at home. It's expected to take effect on March 2, if approved by the Panel for Educational Policy, officials said.
The rule has mostly affected students who attend schools with metal detectors — which tend to serve low-income families — often forcing students to pay $1 a day, on average — and up to $5 daily — to store their phones at local shops.
It unfairly burdened poor families since most kids at schools without detectors bring phones with them to class, even though it officially wasn't allowed, many parents and educators said.
The mayor — who admitted that his son, Dante, brings a cellphone into his highly selective Brooklyn Tech high school — acknowledged the inequity of how the ban was enforced.
"Parents should be able to call or text their kids — that’s what this comes down to,” de Blasio said, announcing the new policy at the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology in Bay Ridge. “It’s something Chirlane and I felt ourselves when Chiara took the subway to high school in another borough each day."
Being able to check in with their kids, to make sure they got to school safely or to see what they're doing after school, affords parents "peace of mind," de Blasio said, adding that the previous administration's ban was "out of touch with modern parenting."
“This new policy recognizes that, in this day and age, technology is very much a part of students’ and families’ everyday lives,” Telecommunications principal Xhenete Shepard said in a statement. “Our time is better spent not fighting technology, but rather helping students recognize how to use technology productively and responsibly."
In her school (which has no metal detectors) some students who are learning English are already using translation apps on cellphones during classes, she said.
Schools will be able to decide whether students can store cellphones, iPads and other mobile devices in backpacks or designated locations in the school during the day.
They will discuss whether to allow phones to be used during lunch or in designated areas. Schools will also decide whether to use mobile devices for instructional purposes in some or all classrooms.
For those schools that don't develop their own policy, students will be allowed to bring cellphones into the building but the devices will be kept out of sight during the school day. All policies must prohibit the use of phones during tests and emergency preparedness drills.
Schools will have a range of discipline options when phones are misused, including confiscation, officials said. Phones could be taken away for a day, a week or a month, noted Fariña, who said she'd like to see schools require that parents come to school to pick them up.
"If you misuse it, you lose it," de Blasio said. "We believe we can set up clear boundaries and checks and balances to make sure this works."
Rosemarie Crowder, a parent of three kids at Telecommunications, remembered the time her son, who didn't have his cellphone, was missing from soccer practice and she spent 90 minutes worrying where he was.
"Because I'm a parent, I worry," she said. "I worry from the time they walk out the door until they come back home. We need to know where our children are."
Besides the safety component for parents, mobile devices are also becoming more popular in classroom instruction with practices like flipped learning — where kids do homework in class and watch video lessons at home — being used at a growing number of tech-centric schools like the iSchool in Hudson Square.
Fariña is hoping that when schools determine their policies, they discuss issues like cyberbullying and consider "more extensive prohibitions" during exam time, like locking up phones.
Some educators also mentioned concerns about students photographing or recording things they shouldn't, such as school fights, which sometimes end up on YouTube.
The DOE was on the forefront of tech-related educational policy when it issued social media guidelines last year for students 13 and older to help students' activity on sites including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube from torpedoing their chances of getting into college or landing jobs years down the line.