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City schools vote to start program for cellphone use

New Hampshire Union Leader

September 14. 2012 12:47AM

MANCHESTER - For the rest of the school year, students in city high schools will be allowed to use their cellphones, for texting only, in designated areas of the school during school hours.

The Manchester School Board's Coordination Committee voted 6-0 (with Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas abstaining) to begin a pilot program in the high schools, allowing students to send text messages while school is in session. Students will be allowed to text in cafeteria and classroom study halls, corridors or hallways, during cafeteria lunches, or in classrooms when their use is for an approved classroom activity.

Phone calls are still prohibited.

School Board and Coordination Committee member Dr. John Avard is a strong proponent of the program. He says it will free up time for administrators to concentrate on more important areas of their job.

'If you tell students they can't do something, like text, 100 percent of the time, they will try and find ways around that 100 percent of the time,' said Avard. 'And the administrators and educators spend too much of their time trying to police that rule. This gives students designated areas where they can text, where they can get that message home to mom or dad or to a friend, and frees up time for administrators.'

An April 2010 study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project and the University of Michigan states that in schools where students are permitted to have cell phones, 71 percent of them sent or received text messages on their cell phones in class. In schools that allow students to have phones in school but not use them in the classroom, 65 percent of them sent or received text messages. In schools that ban cell phones entirely, students seem to ignore the rules - 58 percent report sending or receiving a text message in class.

According to the terms of the pilot program, only cell phones may be used in the designated areas. Use of all other devices is prohibited. Only texting is allowed, not phone calls, and any cell phone that is powered on between the hours of 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. will be considered in use by school officials.

Students are prohibited from using cell phones in high school library/media centers, main office areas, the guidance office areas, and classrooms (unless they are used for an approved classroom activity). Use of cell phones is still prohibited during regular school hours at elementary and middle schools in Manchester.

Avard said the pilot program will still require some policing on the part of administrators.

'It should be far less of a job than it was before,' said Avard.

Students that are found violating the terms of the pilot program are subject to penalties listed under the student code of conduct, which include taking the phone away from the student for the remainder of the school day.

Avard said the effectiveness of the program would be reviewed at the end of the school year, before a decision is made whether to permanently adopt the new cell phone use rules as part of district policy.

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Paul Feely may be reached at

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