Schools rethink ban on use of cell phones

Monday, November 12, 2001

WASHINGTON -- As students rushed to get in touch with their parents in the anxious hours after the Sept. 11 attacks, Principal Ann Monday decided she had bigger worries than enforcing her school's ban on cellular phones.

The attacks have led school officials to reconsider bans on cell phones and pagers during school hours. "Enforcing a cell phone ban was not on our agenda" that day at Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax, Va., Monday said. "Taking care of the emotional needs of our students was."

When word spread of an airliner crashing into the Pentagon, just 14 miles away, the phones began appearing everywhere. "The reality was that many kids are carrying around phones, and carrying them around responsibly," Monday said.

Last week, her school district decided to let students carry cell phones, which must be kept off during school hours.

Judy Seltz of the American Association of School Administrators said superintendents report a "fairly low-key" shift toward loosening bans since Sept. 11.

"Pagers and cell phones are not the oddity they were five years ago. I think it's harder for schools to make an issue of something that's so commonplace these days," she said.

Knox Bricken, an analyst with the Yankee Group, a Boston technology research company, said that after the attack as many as 2 million people bought cell phones.

She said a recent survey found that 32 percent of children ages 10 to 19 use cell phones, compared with 25 percent last year. Overall, 42 percent of Americans use cell phones. Her company predicts that in 2003, more than half the youngsters and adults in the country will have cell phones.

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