Friday, June 01, 2007

Electronic Contraband

That's what cellphones are called now: electronic contraband. At least according Middle School 54 on the Upper West Side of New York City. Check it out, we're accustomed to having metal detectors at schools now, sure, but probably nobody ever gave much thought that they would be used to confiscate cellphones.
Yet this is exactly what police -yes, NYPD was there in person- did at Middle School 54 this week. "People were crying," says one eighth grader.
I'm being serious.
Any child caught with a cellphone on their person after passing through the metal detector was detained and had their contraband taken away. A tearful scene, evidently.
The Education Department first banned "communication devices" in 1988. In those days such devices were beepers, the cellphone revolution still several years off. More recently, New York's mayor took action to prohibit cellphones specifically in the area's schools -forbidden items also include headphones, batteries, and can openers.
From the sounds of it, the kids were traumatised by this week's event. "I feel naked," another eighth grader reported. "I feel like I lost something very important to me."
Parents are up in arms. Oftimes, it appears, the phones are not owned by the student but by their parent. One outraged mother says that she is getting her lawyer and "filing a criminal complaint that they stole my phone."
In all, four hundred cellphones were taken, plus sixty nine ipods, two knives and one imitation gun (always a good thing to have in eighth grade). They will be returned to parents (and parents only) no earlier than next week. Which means mobs of preteens roaming the city streets without cellphones.
Could be trouble.

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