2006_11_pubadvo.JPGPublic Advocate Betsy Gotbaum stepped into the hot debate about cell phones in the schools with e-mails from parents that detail why cell phones are necessary. Here are a few of the stories:

One mother wrote, “I have three children in New York City public schools. As a working single mother, I need to be able to communicate with my children at any given time…Just a week ago, my daughter…was attacked by three students in her school. I tried furiously to reach the school but couldn’t [get] through [because of] the voice prompts. She has a cell phone but can’t take it to school because it will be confiscated. By the time I was able to reach her, she had already been taken to the hospital with a broken arm…If she had been able to call me, I would have known what hospital she was taken to and may have been able to help her get out of the situation.”

According to one mother, “My 13-year-old son was shot with a paintball gun last week…walking home from school and he had no way to call me at home to inform me that he was injured. His only result was to leave the scene of the accident walking home bleeding, hurt, dizzy, disoriented as well as having blurred vision. … The NYPD informed me to try and get him a cell phone! I told them that he had one but could not bring it to school. … our children have the right to have immediate access to their parents!”

One student was assaulted on her way to school, and could have received help sooner if she had been allowed to carry her cell phone. “As I was walking, about a block away from the school a man appeared behind a car…he exposed himself to me…he chased me for about 30 seconds before he gave up. As soon as I went to school I informed my assistant principal about my situation. … Later [the assistant principal] said that another girl had come in five minutes before me with the same story. My assistant principal also said that if I had a cell phone the security guards would have been able to find him because I would have been able to call the school while the incident was happening and help would have been swifter. She also wanted me to have a cell phone so if I saw the man again I would be able to call the police.”

Gotbaum said, "I clearly don’t want students using cell phones during class time, and neither do parents. But in today’s world, the Mayor has got to understand that cell phones are a vital line of communication. My message to the Mayor is simple: Allow principals to decide on a cell phone policy on a school by school basis."

am New York reports that Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott actually "came out to the front of City Hall to discuss the issue with Gotbaum and reporters," saying that the city is "trying to alleviate" the distraction that cell phones bring. We agree with both Gotbaum and Deputy Mayor Walcott, but doubt that students will be able to turn off their phones if allowed to keep them during the day. These stories though, are horrible and there has be to a solution somewhere in the middle. We just don't know what kind of punishment the Department of Education can use to deter cell phone usage during the day.

The cell phone issue has erupted lately because of mandatory weapons security screening at some schools - cell phones and other electronic devices are confiscated along with weapons. But students at schools with less screening usually manage to keep their phones. Gothamist on public school cell phone rules disparity.