Tuesday, May 8, 2007


May 8, 2007 (GBN News): Emboldened by yesterday’s court ruling upholding the NY City Department of Education ban on cell phones, the DOE today expanded the ban to include virtually all electronic and mechanical devices. A DOE spokesperson told GBN News that while the ban covers devices of any kind, the main target of the new ban is wrist watches, which the DOE considers “disruptive” and “a safety issue”.

According to a statement issued by the DOE, students will be banned, effective immediately, from using, possessing or looking at watches while on school property. The statement details the rationale for this ban, and points out that the judge’s ruling in the cell phone case clearly sets a precedent for permitting this new regulation. The reasons put forth in the DOE statement are:

-Watches are “disruptive to the learning environment”. Students are distracted in class by looking at their watches and hearing watch alarms going off.
-Watches can be used to enable gang activity and other crimes. “Long before there were cell phones”, the statement says, “gangs and other criminals ‘synchronized watches’ to coordinate their criminal activity.”
-Watches may soon feature new and dangerous technologies such as voice and text communication capabilities. The statement noted that the judge’s ruling mentioned evolving technology as one justification for the ban. Moreover, it went on to point out that “Even an old Dick Tracy wrist watch can be used for cheating and other such nefarious purposes”.
-Novelty watches such as the ones displaying phases of the moon could also present a discipline problem by “reminding the wearer when the moon is full, thus encouraging bizarre and uncontrolled behavior.”

The DOE statement also reiterated that there are no exceptions to the ban on all electronic and mechanical devices, save for students’ documented medical needs. Hearing aids, for example, which the DOE says often disrupt classes by emitting annoying, high pitched sounds, will require a doctor’s certification. The certification must be renewed weekly since “sometimes people’s hearing improves.”

In response to immediate criticism by parent groups who said students' inability to carry watches for the trip to and from school could lead to excessive lateness to school and after school jobs, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein defended the ban. The Chancellor noted that, as the judge put it, there is a “rational basis” for the ban given the schools’ disciplinary and safety interests. As for the possibility of an appeal or an additional lawsuit, the Chancellor said simply, “Bring it on!”

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