Cellphones will likely be allowed in NYC schools, but not everyone is pleased

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CO-OP CITY, The Bronx (PIX11) -- It's never been permitted before, but soon, students in New York City may be able to bring their cellphones to school legally.

Reaction to this new development was mixed when PIX11 News asked people about it, but the strongest opposition to the policy change came from people who have profited from the current ban on cellphones in schools.

Every afternoon outside of the Truman Educational Complex, a scene reappears time and time again at dozens of schools across the five boroughs as well.

A crowd of students, hundreds of them, surround a van.  The critical mass isn't due to somebody handing out something for free.  It's quite the contrary.  What's being handed out has to be paid for.

"It's a dollar a day," said Bradley Anianuu, a sophomore at the school.

That's the amount -- in cash -- that he and hundreds of other students at his school, and other schools across the city, pay every day, at least 180 days a year, in order to store their phones in a van that a creative entrepreneur set up shortly after the school cellphone ban went into effect under the Bloomberg Administration in 2006.

Not every New York City public school adheres to the no cellphone policy, even though the Department of Education officially restricts cellphones from every campus in the 10,000 school system.

"It was, to some extent, don't ask don't tell," said Mayor Bill de Blasio at a news conference on Tuesday, "and to some extent, every school coming up with its own policy."

By the mayor's own admission, the current system allows principals and other school administrators to turn a blind eye to phones in schools, and schools in poorer communities tend to enforce the ban most strongly.

Mayor de Blasio's son, Dante, who attends Brooklyn Tech -- a selective magnet school -- takes a phone to classes, according to the mayor.  He said that the DOE will start looking at a new school cellphone policy "in the next few weeks" that would let students have their phones in school, "so parents know where their children are."

Parents who spoke with PIX11 News generally supported the change, but with a few reservations.

"I think it's tricky," said Crystal White, the mother of two New York City public school students, one of whom has a cellphone.  "These are teenagers and everything's on the cellphone.  So it's going to be hard to get them to leave everything off and focus on the schoolwork."

However, when asked about the situation with her own child, White's reaction may not have been so different from that of most parents.  It changed.

"When she does [take her phone to school]," said White, "she has it off, and she turns it on when she comes out of school to let me know if she'll be after school or if she's going to be late getting home."

Students who spoke with PIX11 said they use their phones similarly to the way White described her daughter's use.

"Just in case anything happens during school, you have it right here," said Cheann Jarrett, outside of Truman High School, where phones are not permitted on campus.

Cheann's classmate, Tasha Williams, wants to see the policy changed.  "I think it'd be a good idea, because I don't have to spend so much money.  That's money I'm saving."

It's about $180 per year, multiplied by hundreds at each school.  When PIX11 News approached the three people operating the electronics storage van outside of the Truman Educational Complex, one of them gave a one word response to our questions, multiple times over.

"No, no, no, no," he said, as he tried to wave the camera away, and ordered a colleague to close the van's door.

Law enforcement sources and witnesses told PIX11 News that the van had been burglarized in past years.  The crooks stole both cash and cellphones.

Mayor de Blasio, meanwhile, confirmed that a new policy is being worked out.  He did not say when it is anticipated to be in place.