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Cell phone babysitting: NY teens pay valets for cell phone daycare

Cell phones and other devices, such as iPods and iPads, are banned in all New York City public schools, creating a market for mobile nannying.

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"Next, next, have the phone off, have the money out," an employee yelled as the teens texted and listened to music until the last possible second. At the truck window, each student exchanged a phone and a dollar for a numbered yellow ticket.

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"It's not that much of a hassle unless it's really crowded," said Gramercy Arts sophomore Chelsea Clouden.

"My whole four years I've been putting my phone in this truck, and it's been great," said Melquan Thompson, a senior at the High School for Language and Diplomacy. "Only a dollar. It's not bad."

The cellphone trucks appear to be unique to New York City.

"That is hilarious," said Debora Carrera, a high school principal in Philadelphia who had never heard of a phone storage truck. "Wow. It is very strange."

At Carrera's school, Kensington Creative and Performing Arts High School, students operate a cell phone storage room where phones can be dropped off in the morning at no charge and picked up after school.

For many teens, it would be unthinkable to leave the devices at home all day, Carrera said. "Their phone is like a family member," she said. "It's like a pet. They love it."

For parents, the phone may be the only way of communicating with a teen who commutes two hours to school and gets home at 8 p.m., after sports practice.

"In this day and age, it's ridiculous that the Department of Education doesn't allow us to store them on site," said Robin Klueber, the PTA president at Frank McCourt High School on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

Frank McCourt, named for the late writer and teacher, shares a metal-detector building with several other schools. Some students store their phones in a truck, and others use a nearby shoe store, Ms. Klueber said. She wishes the city Department of Education would let the PTA run a storage room instead.

"In this day and age, especially when many of us still feel the scare of 9/11, students should be able to travel with their phones," Klueber said. "Many of these kids come from other boroughs and participate in after-school activities where they are far from home late into the evening."

The Department of Education did not comment on whether lockboxes in schools were being considered. Spokeswoman Marge Feinberg said only, "We have a longstanding policy that does not allow students to use cellphones in schools. It is in Chancellor's Regulation A-412, and there are no plans to change this."

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