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The Baltimore Sun

Devices highlight school disparities [Letter]

Years ago, it didn't take long at school to find out where you stood on the socio-economic ladder.

There were those who showed up at school with the standard 12-pack of crayons, and then there were others who brought in the 64-pack containing every possible color with a built in crayon sharpener in the box. Eventually the focus evolved to clothes. Kids decked out in the most popular and expensive name brand clothes (logos and all) wearing athletic shoes worth a month's car payment, and those dressed for school with generic department store brand clothes and no-name shoes. The haves and have-nots became easier to spot. Now we've taken this to a whole new level.

Students this year will come to school equipped with the latest electronic devices, notebooks, smart phones, and laptops, and sitting next to them will be classmates whose families cannot afford such luxuries. Why make it harder on the have not kids than necessary? Why add yet another argument at home about "If you really loved me, and if you really want me to succeed at school you would buy me a (Fill in the blank with the electronic device that "everybody" else has.)

Maybe the Dollar Store will carry fake devices complete with earphones that students can carry just so they don't stand out in the crowd as being a have-not. It worked with fake car phone antennas.

But there's a more important issue that hasn't been clearly addressed. I read that when class instruction requires electronic devices, accommodations will be provided for the have-nots. But what about the student who asks to use her notebook during flex period, study hall or spare time to do research or complete homework or a school assignment? If a teacher allows a student the advantage of using a personal electronic device to do school work at any time during school, then equal accommodations need to be given every have-not student who wants to do the same.

There should never be disparity when it comes to instruction, class assignments, resources and learning opportunities throughout the day between the haves and have-nots. It's tough enough already.

Bill Thomas


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