‘Smart’ phones don’t belong in schools

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The most powerful weapons in the world don’t fire bullets.

Not the lead variety, anyway.

Pocket-sized devices with social media capabilities can threaten individuals or nations. They can be used for bullying and lead to suicide. They also can be used to instantly access information, or connect families, or any host of good and constructive things.

Like a gun, these weapons do nothing by themselves. It’s all about who’s touching them.

Some sick coward was using such a device to anonymously threaten to kill one or more students at Lake City High School.

Acknowledging that the devices themselves aren’t the offenders, we applaud Lake City administrators for their stance Thursday on immediately outlawing any student’s use of electronic communication devices on campus until further notice. It’s a temporary policy that should be made permanent districtwide.

Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy has for years prohibited the student use of cellphones on campus during class hours, removing both a serious distraction and a potential weapon. While some students might cry “Foul!”, administrators are now almost certain to see students paying more attention to their surroundings, including teachers and the materials being taught. As long as school phones are available for students to contact the outside world in an emergency or vice versa, there is no reason for smartphones on campus.

On Thursday, LCHS administrators put up a $200 reward for information leading to the identification of whoever’s behind this week’s death threats. The Press added $200 to the reward pot, and others in the community stepped up as well because they want to see an end not just to this threat, but discourage similar future incidents.

The long-term solution lies in education, communication and personal discipline. Parents need to communicate with their kids about the proper use of social media and monitor their activity. Because software now allows users to mask their identity, the potential for trouble has multiplied exponentially. Put these powerful weapons in the hands of immature people who are interconnected by the devices and interdependent upon them, and situations like Lake City’s will become more commonplace. In fact, while the death threats were extreme, school officials say serious abuse of social media is an ongoing and escalating problem.

Parents have a right to be able to contact their kids, so a ban on communication on school days is out of the question. What should be considered, though, is prohibiting on a permanent basis the use of electronic communication devices on campus during the school day. There’s nothing to lose and so much to gain — including an education.

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