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The New York Times


By Matt Richtel

LANSING, Mich. - Sitting in his second-period computer class at Eastern High School, Gray Taylor, 15, felt his cellphone vibrate. To avoid being caught by the teacher, he answered quietly - and discovered an unexpected caller.
"Why are you answering the phone in class?" Gray's mother asked. He whispered back, "You're the one who called me". His mother said she had intended to leave a question on Gray's voice mail.
Such scenes are playing out across the country, as hundreds of high schools have reluctantly agreed to relax their rules about cellphones in schools. Rather than banning the phones outright, as many once did, they are capitulating to parent demands and market realities, and allowing students to carry phones in school - though not to use them in class.
The reversal is a significant change from policies of the 1990's, when school administrators around the country viewed cellphones as the tools of drug dealers. In Florida, carrying a cellphone in school could be punishable by a 10-day suspension. In Louisiana, it was deemed a crime, with a potential penalty of 30 days in jail.
But now the phones have become tools used by parents to keep in touch with, and keep track of, their children. And schools are facing a more basic reality: it is no longer possible to enforce such bans.
Thanks to the falling prices of mobile phones, and the aggressive efforts by carriers to market "family plans" to parents and teenagers, the phones have become so commonplace that trying to keep them out of schools would be like trying to enforce a ban on lip gloss or combs.

Adapted from The New York Times, September 2004, www.nytimes.com

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