Porn sparks a ban on mobiles

14th April 2006 at 01:00
GERMANY

Bavaria has banned the use of mobile phones in schools to prevent the circulation of obscene material.

Siegfried Schneider, the state's education minister, said: "Pupils shouldn't be phoning during school hours and schools are not the place to circulate unsavoury material that is damaging to young minds." Pupils will still be allowed to carry the phones, as long as they remain unused.

Bavarian education authorities clamped down after police raids in state schools in recent weeks resulted in the confiscation of dozens of mobiles that pupils had used to circulate violent and pornographic images. Fifteen pupils are facing charges of possession and distribution of obscene material.

The authorities initially stressed that the situation, involving 14 to 18-year-old pupils at a secondary school in Immenstadt in southern Bavaria, was an "isolated incident". However, police raids in other Bavarian schools unearthed similar material.

In late March a 14-year-old schoolgirl and seven other pupils at a state secondary were suspended for five days after circulating mobile phone videos depicting pornographic images involving animals. The girl's parents had protested against the suspension but the court upheld the school's decision, saying the material was of a "highly disturbing nature" and the school's headmistress had acted within her rights.

Despite national concerns over obscene material, only Bavaria has imposed a state-wide phoning ban in all schools, though pupils may still carry mobiles. Mr Schneider said pupils could still phone home in emergencies, provided teachers gave permission.

But Heinz-Peter Meidinger, chairman of the German Association of Grammar School Teachers, said the ban was unrealistic.

"If we wanted to rule out abuse by modern technology, we would not stop at mobile phones: we'd have to ban PCs and Internet access, too," he said.

Marianne Demmer, vice-chairwoman of the GEW, the most influential teachers'

union, said: "Banning mobiles makes no sense: it only shifts the problem away from schools."

Meanwhile, most states are still pondering what action to take. Most refuse to ban mobiles from schools because they fear it is not legally enforceable.

The GEW has called for stricter state controls on material available from Internet providers, while Josef Kraus, chairman of Germany's Teachers'

Association, is demanding parents take more responsibility for young people's exposure to media.

"When no one controls what goes on at home, it's only a question of time before such smutty stuff finds its way to schools," he said.

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