UNION CITY – When a class of third-graders asked state Sen. Liz Figueroa, D-Fremont, to make a law to ban homework, she said no.
But she said yes when a high school class asked her to help topple a ban against cell phones at school, which will happen if Gov. Gray Davis signs a new bill recently approved by the Senate.
The Senate voted unanimously on Wednesday to repeal a ban against “signaling devices,” a law passed 14 years ago to prevent drug deals on school grounds.
Don Montoya, the principal of James Logan High School in Union City, approached the schools' student body after he decided that students should be able to have cell phones for their personal safety.
“He had been thinking about it ever since September 11,” explained Christine Start, the school body president who spearheaded the legislation along with two other students. “And we thought, ‘why can't we use cell phones?’ It makes our lives so much safer and easier. So we decided to do something about it.”
Start and other students then invited Figueroa to class and asked her to work to get rid of the ban against cell phones and pagers. “I thought at first just tell Senator Figueroa and she'll do the rest,” explained Start. “But she said OK, now get to work.”
From that moment on, the senior years of Start and the two other student body leaders –Monica Esqueda and Juan Pagan – became much busier as the trio headed to Sacramento repeatedly to work on the legislation.
“They did a wonderful job,” Figueroa said today. “They met with lobbyists, they testified on the bill, the got other school districts involved, they negotiated the bill and got a great deal of media attention.”
Figueroa said that the bill did not have any opposition because it allows each school district to decide for itself whether or not to allow students to have cell phones.
“School teachers are quite supportive,” she said, explaining that most kids carried phones anyway while school administrators looked the other way. “The world has really changed and we need to give young people as many opportunities as possible to act responsibly.”