Schools reconsider cellphone bans after Sept. 11

In the past, student cellphones were a real "disconnect" with schools across the country. Maryland even threatened jail terms and hefty fines for repeat violators of its ban on cellphones and pagers.

Since Sept. 11, though, a growing number of schools will no longer hold the line - thanks

to a new appreciation for students' needs to phone home in emergencies.

But the switch hasn't been easy. Schools now face dizzying concerns about how best to enact the new policies, while still dealing with old issues like classroom disruption and having to track down stolen phones. Worse, students might phone in bomb threats or deal drugs more easily.

At Adlai E. Stevenson High School in suburban Chicago, students now are

allowed to use cellphones and pagers - but only after school finishes at 3:25 p.m. The rest of the time, they must keep them off and out of sight.

"What if exams finish earlier than that?" asks 15-year-old Karen Levy, who stands outside with a crowd of students ready to go home at 11:15 a.m. "It's really not fair."

The confusion has a familiar ring in the Baltimore area. Some schools allow students to stash cellphones in their cars - but the kids who need to communicate, who need the rides home, don't have a car to put their phones in.

Some counties are also split between two area codes, meaning students using pay phones must splurge on long-distance calls home. Many schools are locked after hours, making it impossible for students in extracurricular activities to gain access to a pay phone.

But as more students opt for the convenience and security of cellular devices, pay phones may become even less accessible. Schools won't want to replace their unprofitable pay phones once they have broken.

Thus, as schools relax rules on cellphones and pagers, they'll also need to find ways to help students who can't afford them.

• Associated Press material was used in this story.

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