Mayor Michael Bloomberg is refusing to lift a ban on students bringing cell phones to school, even if the phones are turned off and out of sight. Most of the New York City Council disagrees with the Mayor, taking the reasonable position that the phones should be allowed on campus as long as they're not used. It appears some parents, who understandably view the phones as an important emergency safety device, may end up in court over the issue.
Our district once banned student cell phones, when they were relatively expensive and seen more as a tool for drug dealers and gang members than as a safety item. In this post-Columbine, post-9/11 era, parents fought for the ban to be lifted, and it was. Cell phones were allowed to be on campus, as long as they were turned off in class; their use was permitted only before and after school hours. You broke the rule, your phone was confiscated. Within the last year or two, the phones having proven no problem, the district's rules were loosened even further and phone use has been allowed during the lunch period -- not a necessary privilege, but one that has proven convenient from time to time for us and our high school age daughter.
New York school officials insist other systems are in place for parents and children to make contact in an emergency. Frankly, I have not always been very impressed with the common sense or decisions of our own local school administrators, and during a major emergency one-on-one contact with each parent is difficult to accomplish in a short time frame. As a parent, I'm much more comfortable having direct "emergency access" to my child, and I can certainly understand NYC parents feeling the same way.
It's interesting to me that the mayor of the city hit hardest by 9/11 would dig in his heels so strongly against students having cell phones. Technology marches on, and in this case the mayor needs to march along with it.