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WEDNESDAY, MAY 3, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Lawrence schools' approach to cell phone use makes sense

How did we ever get by without cell phones?

Not so long ago, when the devices were bulky and service was analog and intermittent, at best, only the rich and powerful owned one.

Today, of course, there is a cell phone for nearly every member of the family. Elementary school children have them. Grandparents have them. One cannot walk down a busy street or in a crowded mall without seeing someone chatting on a cell phone.

The technology has advanced by several generations in just the past couple of years. Digital signals provide crisp, clear reception. Cell phones are no longer just for sending and receiving calls, they also play music and games, give the latest sports scores and stock prices, take photos and send and receive text messages.

And cell phones provide not only convenience, but also safety and peace-of-mind, especially in emergency situations. Hitchhiking down the road from a broken-down vehicle is no longer necessary. Women no longer need to be alone when walking across a parking lot at night. Parents can contact their children at any time with the touch of a few buttons.

The Alabama Legislature recently lifted its prohibition on student possession of cell phones at public schools. Lawmakers gave local school boards responsibility to set policy on the use of cell phones, pagers and other electronic communications equipment on campus.

Many school boards are struggling to come up with a policy that is fair but limits the possibility for abuse. Un-checked, student cell phone use could invite cheating and be disruptive.

Lawrence County School Board members discussed the issue Monday night. While they took no formal action, the majority favors allowing students to carry the devices as long as they are not visible.

That seems a sensible approach that parents, students and school staff can live with. Teachers can easily see if a student is photographing a test or sending a text message to others. Yet children will be able to contact parents to pick them up after extracurricular activities.

Children will be children and there will be abuses. But requiring parents to go to the school to collect confiscated devices will likely prevent many repeat offenses.

Schools should allow students to possess cell phones, but limit their use to before and after the bell rings.

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