Q&A: Deni Hirsh, 

Memphis City Schools District 2 board commissioner

Since the early '90s, cell phones have been banned in Memphis City Schools. It doesn't matter whether they're turned on or off or if it's during -- or after -- the school day.

And even with cell phones becoming increasingly popular -- 55 percent of teenagers own cell phones, according to a 2005 survey by the Yankee Group -- last week the Memphis City Schools board voted 7-1 to keep the cell-phone ban in place.

Board member Deni Hirsh was the lone dissenting vote. She wanted to change the policy to allow students to bring phones to school as long as they didn't use them during school hours. This week, the Flyer connected with Hirsh. -- by Shea O'Rourke

Flyer: What's your call on cell phones at schools?

Hirsh: They're not bad by simply existing. It's the use of a cell phone during school that can become a problem. When a child uses a cell phone to cheat, that's not a cell phone issue, that's a cheating issue. We're treating all kids as if they're going to behave badly before they ever do it.

Does being a parent shape your view of the issue?

As a mom, I know what it's like. I was in a car accident on my way to pick my children up one day, at a time when the office wasn't answering phones. And after school hours, offices are closed. Kids can't let their parents know if a practice ends late.

What about the distraction of cell phones?

Teachers often say that kids forget to turn their phones off, but it would be very simple to have an announcement each day -- like [they do] at plays -- reminding kids to turn off their phones. If teachers are concerned about cheating, they can take up students' cell phones before giving a test.

Some say kids should be able to keep phones in their cars, but that's not fair to kids who don't drive. We have the issue of safety for kids walking to and from school. That's where I really feel strongly. It shouldn't be our right to say what safety precautions parents can take for their kids.

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