Cell phone and school sex headaches

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, January 29, 2007 – Education officials in two Caribbean countries have been thinking about how to deal with pornography in schools which is downloaded or recorded by students using high tech cell phones.

In Barbados, there is already a ban on the use of cell phones but a former teachers’ union official does not support the ban while in Trinidad the education minister does not see a ban on cell phones in schools as the answer.

Chief Education Officer in Barbados, Wendy Griffith-Watson, said that the existing policy is that any student found using a cell phone on the school’s compound, will be suspended, the phone will be confiscated, and the parent summoned to collect the phone. However, she said that a total ban on cell phones in school is a bit tricky because it would entail body searches for which teachers are not trained. Speaking last night on a television current affairs programme in Barbados Griffith-Watson said that the ministry was currently seeking legal advice on the matter.

Former president of the Barbados Union of Teacher, Phil Perry, said that cell phones are the current technology and a way must be found to harness and use the technology rather than just ban it. He said one had to find technological methods to combat the abuse of the phones in the schools. He pointed to Mexico where he said four churches were now using devices to jam cell phone signals to stop them ringing during the service.

In neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago, the debate also rages however Education Minister Hazel Manning said that a ban on the use of cell phones by pupils in schools is not the solution to stopping their participation in and recording of sexual acts.

In an interview with the Trinidad Express Newspaper, Manning said the solution lay in imparting a strong sense of morality in the pupils while teaching them how to use cell phones positively.

“So we are calling parents, we are calling on teachers, we are calling on principals too and in that way you really put the responsibility on the child to know that, listen- I can do this but I just can’t do that, and if I do that, these are the consequences,” she said.

Manning said it was a whole new world where technology was concerned and “instead of banning it, what we are saying is that let’s get in there and let us use it”, positively.

Her comments came against the background of reports of students capturing live sex acts at school on the built in video camera in their cell phone. She also reported that the alleged statutory rape of one girl was captured on camera about seven months ago and this has led to the arrest of the perpetrator.