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Mobile Phones Making The Grade

Like so many teens today, Ebony Figueroa is hooked on her mobile phone.

Even in school.

And the boys, like Jarrod Bright, are just as chatty, reports The Early Show's Tracy Smith.

"I love my phone. I need it," Bright says. "It's a necessity."

Fortunately for them, Smith points out, their school (North Brunswick High in New Jersey) has a relaxed mobile-phone policy thanks, in part, to a sympathetic superintendent.

"We felt that students should be allowed to use them the way they use pay phones in schools," says Robert Ritter. "We still require them not to have them on during class time, but we do allow them during their lunches or free time to make cell-phone calls."

That mean as soon as class ends, the gabfest begins.

Where such a policy used to be the exception, Smith notes, it's now the norm. Over the past few years, several states, including Nevada and South Carolina, have lifted their bans on mobile phones in schools, leaving it to individual districts to set policy.

"I think Columbine and 9/11 demonstrated that there is a purpose - a legitimate purpose - to having the phone and having the communication in the school," says Frank Ingargiola, principal of North Brunswick High School.

Parents such as Debbie Schanen welcome the change: "Because of the way the world is today, it's essential in case of an emergency that you be able to get in touch with your child, and they're able to get in touch with you."

Another reason for the growing acceptance: the sheer difficulty enforcing bans, now that mobile phones have become as common among teens as notebooks and backpacks.

"Just to make them forbidden accessories in school is counterproductive," says Ritter, the superintendent. "We'd spend all of our time tracking down kids, and the vast majority would still carry them and conceal them, and it's just not worth the effort."

A lingering concern, correspondent Smith reports, is that students can use mobile phones to cheat.

"We haven't had occasions here, but I know in other schools, kids have text-messaged each other the answers for tests and things like that," principal Ingargiola says.

Not to mention the inevitable classroom disruptions, when students leave the phones on "ring," and get calls, rather than setting them to the "silent" mode.

But, Smith adds, faced with the penalty of losing the right to have the phones in school if they go off in class, most students are learning to keep them in that "silent" mode on school grounds.

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