Teens get youth cell phone ban rescinded

Photo by Sue Suchyta

Photo by Sue Suchyta

Some members of the 35-student eighth grade video production class at Strong Middle School, taught by Shawn McGirr, approached the Melvindale City Council to have an outdated youth cell phone and pager ban removed from the city ordinance book. The council rescinded the ordinance Wednesday. McGirr (second from left) is joined by students Steven Schuetze (third from left), Victoria VanDeGeest (fifth from left), Miriah Lannen, McKenna Smith and Savannah Hoak.

Sunday Times Newspapers

MELVINDALE – The Strong Middle School eighth-graders in Shawn McGirr’s video production class got hands-on experience with local government this fall.

Public service announcement videos they made recently were successful in convincing the City Council to rescind what the students believed was an unfairly restrictive ordinance governing the use of telephone paging devices by minors.

Written in 1994, the measure was designed to deter teens from using pagers to sell illegal drugs, and to give law enforcement an edge.

The original ordinance defined beepers and telephone paging devices and forbade their use by minors without the written consent of a legally recognized employer. It also required that minors carry documentation from their employer, and forbade adults from purchasing and transferring possession of such devices to minors as well.

The 1994 ordinance did allow parents to provide written permission for a minor to possess and use an electronic communication device, with the stipulation that the youth carry and provide the written documentation on demand.

McGirr’s students turned their passion about the issue into a PSA learning experience. The students produced video messages for the council explaining their reasons for a rescission of the youth cell phone restrictions.

“They integrated their skills in language arts, computer science and problem-solving skills to create four public service announcements,” McGirr said. “One PSA focused on cell phones used to call for help when friends are injured. Another pointed out the advancements in cell phone technology, such as (Global Positioning System)-capable phones which could help find lost or kidnapped children.”

Councilwoman Stacy Striz, whose son, Ian, is in the class, looked up the ordinance for the students and championed the students’ proposal, gathering support for it among her fellow council members.

Students learned about council procedure by presenting their information at an earlier council meeting, and then by seeing their proposal go through its first reading. They also were there for the second reading, and to see it pass on Wednesday.

“(The) council was very complimentary,” McGirr said. “It really is … representative of the skills taught by all the teachers at Strong Middle School and the challenges they urge their students to conquer every day.”