New York City

NYC School Cellphone Ban Disproportionately Affects Poor Students

Poor students have to leave their cellphones in private trucks outside while the rule is apparently ignored at more affluent schools


When I asked the students at The Collegiate Institute for Math and Science, a public high school in the Bronx, what they thought of the metal detectors they have to pass through on their way into school, they replied that they hardly thought about them at all. The scan machines had been installed in the entry hall years before they arrived. Lining up outside, often in the cold, removing their belts, surrendering their backpacks and purses to the conveyor belt, and producing their ID cards was a part of their morning routine. But what really bothered them, what seemed unfair, and what they wanted to talk about, was a more recent development: the cell phone trucks. Cell phones are officially banned from public schools in New York City, and each morning, the students, many of whom are poor enough to qualify for the free lunch program, pay a dollar apiece to leave their phones in the privately owned trucks parked outside. Why, they asked, are the students in more prosperous neighborhoods unofficially allowed to ignore the ban, as long as they aren't caught? And why are the poor kids in the eighty-eight New York schools that have been equipped with metal detectors forced to spend five dollars a week—an expense that, for some, means going without food?