School bans on mobile phones violate students' human rights

Asia's Tech News Daily

School bans on mobile phones violate students' human rights

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By Lee Hyo-jin

A complete ban on the use of mobile phones in schools infringes on the basic rights of students including freedom of communication, the nation’s human rights watchdog said, Wednesday.

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) expressed the opinion in response to a complaint filed by a student at a high school in the southeastern city of Daegu.

Under the school policy, students must have their mobile phones turned off during school hours, with no exceptions even for recess and lunch time ― a common regulation at schools here.

If a student is caught using their phone, teachers take it away for one week, and for two weeks if the student is caught a second time. The student may face other penalties such as cleaning duties.

If the student is caught a third time, their parents are notified. When caught a fourth time, the student may face additional actions based on the decision of the school’s disciplinary committee.

The school explained that the outright ban on mobile phone use aims to minimize unnecessary use of electronic gadgets at schools and create a better educational environment.

It added that students can use the school computer lab to access the internet and they are also allowed to use phone booths installed on each floor. In case of emergency, they may contact their parents through their homeroom teachers.

The NHRCK, however, said such rules violate basic human rights including freedom of communication guaranteed by the Constitution.

The commission also viewed that banning phones not only during class but also breaks is an excessive restriction.

“In modern society, a mobile phone is not only a tool for telecommunications, but also the means for social interaction and connection, as well as a source of obtaining necessary information,” it said in a statement.

“Aside from the complete ban, the school should seek different ways to create a better educational environment while minimizing the violation of students’ basic rights,” it added, recommending the school principal revise the rules.

The NHRCK also said, “The school makes students contact their parents through homeroom teachers in case of emergency instead of using their own phones, but this may result in breach of privacy in certain situations.”

While debates over the bans on phone use in schools is not new in Korea, the human rights watchdog has been recommending against excessive bans in its responses to previous similar complaints.

Earlier in October, it made a recommendation to a high school to revise its rules under which teachers collect the students’ phones in the morning and return them when classes are over.

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