N.Y. teens pay valets to store phones

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NEW YORK (AP) — Thousands of teenagers who can’t take their cellphones to school have another option, courtesy of a burgeoning industry of sorts in always-enterprising New York City: paying a dollar a day to leave it in a truck that’s parked nearby.

Students might resent an expense that adds up to as much as $180 a year, but even so, leaving a phone at one of the trucks in the morning and then picking it up at the end of the day has become as routine for city teenagers as getting dressed and riding the morning-rush subway.

Cellphones and other devices, such as iPods and iPads, are banned in all New York City public schools, but the rule is widely ignored except in the 88 buildings that have metal detectors. Administrators at schools without detectors tell students, “If we don’t see it, we don’t know about it.”

Schools where violence is considered a risk have metal detectors to spot weapons, but they also spot phones. They include the Washington Irving Educational Complex in the Union Square area, a cluster of small high schools in a massive century-old building that used to be one big high school.

The trucks that collect the cellphones have their own safety issues — one was held up in the Bronx in June, and some 200 students lost their phones.

A van that’s parked a block away on school days is painted bright blue and labeled “Pure Loyalty Electronic Device Storage.” The owner is Vernon Alcoser, 40, who operates trucks in three New York boroughs.

Loyalty employees chatted but would not give their names as students from the Washington Irving complex lined up on a drizzly morning to surrender their phones.

“Next, next, have the phone off, have the money out,” an employee yelled as the teens approached. At the truck window, each student exchanged a phone and a dollar for a numbered yellow ticket.

The cellphone trucks appear to be unique to New York City.

“That is hilarious,” said Debora Carrera, a high school principal in Philadelphia who had never heard of a phone storage truck. “Wow. It is very strange.”

At Carrera’s school, Kensington Creative and Performing Arts High School, students operate a cellphone storage room where phones can be dropped off in the morning at no charge and picked up after school.

“In this day and age, it’s ridiculous that the Department of Education doesn’t allow us to store them on site,” said Robin Klueber, PTA president at Frank McCourt High School on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

The Department of Education did not comment on whether lockboxes in schools were being considered. Spokeswoman Marge Feinberg said only, “We have a longstanding policy that does not allow students to use cellphones in schools. It is in Chancellor’s Regulation A-412, and there are no plans to change this.”

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