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Spotlight on Bridgeport Elections and BOE, Cell Phone Policies in Schools

Spotlight on Bridgeport Elections and BOE

Just six days away from Connecticut’s municipal elections, we’re spotlighting the controversial race in Bridgeport. There, shortly after incumbent Joe Ganim narrowly won the Democratic primary for the mayoral race against John Gomes—allegations were raised that a Ganim supporter had stuffed ballot boxes. It led to a high-profile elections fraud case that has yet to be decided, and that is also likely to be appealed.

In the meantime, Bridgeport voters will be able to choose between Joe Ganim (D), David Herz (R), John Gomes (I), and petitioning candidate Lamond Daniels on November 7th. Interestingly, as the CT Post reports, Gomes is asking the court to either declare him the winner of the Democratic primary or order a new primary. Should he prevail, Bridgeport residents might face a second primary after the November 7th general - unusual!

Bridgeport's leadership also seems to be contentious in the education space. Since kicking off her tenure as the district’s new superintendent this fall, Dr. Carmela Levy-David has had ongoing, public disputes with the Bridgeport Board of Education. (See, for example, this recording of an October 10th board meeting.) Recently, in a video shared with the Bridgeport community, Levy-David claimed that some board members, "don’t understand how to provide respectful dialogue and not expose me to public criticism, public derision and public ridicule that I am not deserving of.” On Thursday, the board voted 6-3 to direct Levy-David to remove that video, and she immediately complied.

Bridgeport has been one of the bright spots during the pandemic. The district leadership’s innovative partnership with HILL for Literacy has been largely credited with impressive reading gains at the elementary level. We hope this critical work continues as Superintendent Levy-David develops her plans—and that the district’s leaders can focus upon the success of Bridgeport students and schools.

Cell Phone Policies in Schools

Yesterday, The New York Times' Natasha Singer explored a growing trend to ban cellphones in schools. According to the article, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) says that almost one in four countries have laws or policies restricting student cell use in school. In America, this policy issue has been a swinging pendulum, sometimes trending in favor of bans and other times not.

Supporters of no-phone policies believe they limit access to social media—which has a negative impact on youth mental health; reduce classroom distractions; and minimize instances of cyber bullying. In fact, earlier this month, The 74 had an article arguing that cell phone bans lead to better academic engagement, less anxiety, and more exercise.

However, opponents of phone bans think they could disproportionately impact students from low-income families who might rely on these devices because they can’t afford laptops; might need to be in touch because they have more family responsibilities; or might be juggling school and jobs. For parents living in fear of school-based emergencies like shootings, cell phones also provide an element of security by virtue of constant contact with their children.

In an interesting opinion for the Boston Globe this week, Lenore Skenazy—an advocate for promoting childhood independence—urges schools to get rid of phones and asks parents to free their kids of, “the crippling belief that they always need their parent’s help, always must be reachable, and are always in some kind of danger.”

With compelling arguments on both sides, this is certainly an issue to watch.

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