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Cellphones disrupt classes in Yk schools

Jessica Gray
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Jan 30/06) - You can see them everywhere. On buses. In offices. In restaurants. On the street. And now, you can see them in class as cellphones have become increasingly popular for students of all ages.

NNSL Photo/graphic

St. Patrick student Brendan Murphy, 17, and Sir John student Jessica Wheaton, 15 , can reach out and get in touch with their friends anywhere they are, including school classrooms. - Jessica Gray/NNSL photo

The phones are so disruptive that administrators at one Yellowknife school are threatening to take them away from students who won't keep them out of the classroom.

Weledeh Catholic elementary school principal Merrill Dean said "students are allowed to have cellphones in their lockers, but they must be turned off and cannot be taken into class."

Most schools in Yellowknife have policies or are looking at how to address cellphone use on school property.

Sir John Franklin high school has a similar policy.

Sir John principal Mieke Cameron said most students have respected the school's wishes, but the number of cellphones in the school has increased.

"(Cellphones) are prevalent and they are everywhere," she said. "And now with the text messaging, camera, and game functions they are a concern."

Students say they like sending text messages because it's cheap and less obvious than making a call.

"No one knows you're doing it," said 17-year-old Michael Luzeny.

The site www.txt.ca reports Canadians sending around 158 million text messages a month.

Administrators have raised the concern of cheating on exams using text messages. Students seen with a cellphone at their desk, on or off, risk getting zero.

Students say cellphones are so numerous because they're more than just phones-on-the-go.

"(Cellphones) have music, text messaging, cameras, and games," said 16-year-old St. Patrick student Kalvin Sangris.

Though he knows people who forget to turn off their cellphones in class, Sangris says the phones aren't a distraction.

Kayla Stuckey, 17, says calls can be distracting in school depending on who calls. "If it's my friends then I don't care, but if it's my parents...."

Stuckey spends between $100 and $150 a month on her phone bill. She said cellphones are a great way to stay in touch because all her friends have cellphones, too.

Sandra McDaniel and her son Leslie Rocher share a cellphone. Though he's only in Grade 3, Leslie likes to carry a cellphone around when he's with friends.

"I make lots of calls from my friends' houses," he said, in order to make sure his mom knows where he is and what he's doing.

He said it's easier to use a cellphone when he goes out because he doesn't have money to use pay phones.

McDaniel said she likes to be "kept in the loop." She thinks the reason cellphones are so big now is because they can be used in an emergency.

"Ever since 9/11, people have realized that they can be handy in tense situations."