Toronto

Toronto students banned from using cellphones in schools

Cellphones have been silenced at hundreds of Toronto public schools following a decision by board trustees to ban use of the devices in classrooms and hallways.

Cellphones have been silenced at hundreds of Toronto public schools following a decisionbyboard trustees to ban use of the devices in classrooms and hallways.

On Wednesday evening, Toronto District School Board trustees votedoverwhelmingly in favour of a motion to force students to turn off their cellphones and other personal electronic devices such as BlackBerrys.

Information on the banwasbeing sent out Thursday to the board's 560 schools to explain the new policy, which replaces the old one that allowed individual schools to govern use of cellphones.

"You're welcome to bring the cellphone to the school itself. We don't want to ban it outright from the premises so students can't use it as a tool for safety when they're walking to and from school," said trustee Josh Matlow.

But once students walk through the school doors, "it's time to turn it off, put it away and listen to what your teachers say," he said.

Matlow, who proposed the motion, argued cellphones caused disruptions in class, distracted students and allowed them to cheat by accessing the internet on their phones or receiving answers via text message.

'You take notes by text message and save them, then you pop[the cellphone] out. It's quiet and nobody sees. It's not like paper. It doesn't crinkle.'—Grade 9 student

Other concerns include safety and privacy, said Matlow, citing incidents in other jurisdictions of humiliating cellphone pictures or videos posted to online sharing websites such as YouTube.

Cellphones make cheatingeasy, student says

Central Technical School, located on Bathurst Street in downtown Toronto, had already been enforcing a cellphone ban, butschool officials say the decisionhasn't been without its challenges.

"The teachers can only do so much and the kids get angry at them and say that it's my phone," said vice-principal Karin Fuessel.

There, if a student is caught using their cellphone, the device is confiscated until the end of the day. Multiple offences result in a phone call to parents asking them to pick up the phone.

One Grade 9 student at the vocational school, who didn't identify himself, admitted to cheating on tests by using his cellphone.

'Parents can do what parents have done for 100 years, which is call the office and ask for your child to come down.'—School board trustee Josh Matlow

"You take notes by text message and save them, then you pop[the cellphone] out. It's quiet and nobody sees. It's not like paper. It doesn't crinkle," he said

Few exceptions made

Opponents of school cellphone bans have voiced concerns about being unable to reach children quickly during emergencies, one that Matlow dismissed.

"During the school day, when the kids are learning, parents can do what parents have done for 100 years, which is call the office and ask for your child to come down, if you need to get ahold of them," said Matlow.

Exceptions to the ban will be allowed in special circumstances and will be the responsibility of principals.

For example, students in one of the board's deaf and hard of hearing classes will be allowed to continue using BlackBerrys as communication tools, said Matlow.

Toronto's school board is not the first in the area to enact such a policy.The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board banned cellphone use on school property in February.

In the future,the Toronto board also plans to look at banning other electronic devices, such as iPods,and the use of social networking websites such as Facebook on school computers.

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