Editor’s Note: The following story was originally published in Bronx Youth Heard, a publication of the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative, a free journalism program for Bronx high school students run by the Norwood News. We are currently accepting applications for our spring semester. To find out more about the program and how to apply, click here. The Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative is supported by the North Star Fund, the Johnson Family Foundation Fund, and City Councilman Fernando Cabrera, and is run in collaboration with CUNY’s College Now program at Hostos Community College.
By Elfrida Johnson
At Jonathan Levin High School for Media and Communications on Morris Avenue, some students leave their cell phones at home. Some try to sneak them in. Others pay a dollar to keep it at the bodega next door. Their teachers, on the other hand, don’t have this problem.
While students are forbidden from having cell phones in school, some say their teachers use them in class. They find the double-standard distracting and unfair.
“The rule says phone prohibited — not phone prohibited except for teachers,” said Alexis Watson, a student at Levin.
The Department of Education banned cell phones at public schools for students in 2006, but there is no official policy for teachers and administrators. Teachers at Levin said they are told not to use their cell phones in class, but some still do.
“Their ring tones distract me and make me lose focus on what I’m supposed to be doing,” senior Patrick Johnson said.
“I think teachers who use their phones in class should be fired,” said Don Cerrone, a broadcast journalism teacher. “If the teacher asks permission from the principal about an emergency, then it’s ok, but if it’s just a regular conversation, then he or she can’t just disrupt everything.”
He said students’ class time is wasted when teachers use their cell phones in class.
According to Principal Nasib Hoxha, the official school policy bans teachers from using their phones in class. He said students who see their teachers using cell phones should give him a written report.
The bigger issue for students is that they think it’s unfair that they cannot have their phones.
“I think students should have the right to bring their phones to school,” said Katheryn Espinal, a senior. She said students should have their cell phones with them in case of an emergency outside school. She also believes that just because certain students use their phone for unnecessary stuff doesn’t mean every student does it.
But Raul Acevedo, the guidance counselor, said teachers have more reasons for needing a phone on them than students do.
“You cannot compare the two,” he said. “Adults have more responsibilities than students do.”
The parent coordinator, Celsa Lopez, agrees with the school policy. She said teachers need to bring their phones because they have responsibilities, like a second job or children to check up on.
Still, students say they should have the same rights as teachers.
“I need my phone for protection; nobody knows what might happen outside school,” said Espinal.
“It’s not safe for students to come to school without a cell phone,” said Stephen Mensah. “There could be an emergency and the student needs to call home.”