Without question, telephone use has become a big issue on the nation's campuses, in elementary and high schools and at universities. But school districts in Utah already are dealing with the problem as they see best. We see no reason for state lawmakers to step in.
According to a story in this newspaper, a bill being considered for the 2008 legislative session would require Utah's school districts to draft some sort of policy regarding electronic devices, such as cell phones that can be used to take pictures and videos or to send text messages. Many Utah school districts already have such policies. We assume the ones that don't either don't consider the phenomenon a problem, or they soon will be forced by circumstances to address it.
That's the beauty of a government that is close to the people it serves. School boards and district administrators can react to problems they consider to be of importance.
The issue here isn't cell phones. It is state lawmakers trying to require something that ought to be handled by elected school boards and district administrators. We find it ironic that so many Utah legislators are upset with federal mandates, such as the No Child Left Behind law, that meddle with education, and yet they often entertain bills that would meddle in similarly inappropriate ways.
Cell phones have ignited debates in state capitols and at school boards nationwide. In one sense, they provide parents an instant means of communication with their student children, which can be important in case of an emergency. In other ways, they provide nuisances, can lead to cheating and could be seen as tools of harassment, particularly when kids take pictures of each other in locker rooms or other inappropriate places.
School districts are not oblivious to this problem, nor are they incapable of handling it on their own. The bill under consideration would not necessarily cause harm, but it is not needed.
Lawmakers may instead want to consider outlawing texting while driving, a growing problem that ought to be handled at the state level.