N.Y. court upholds school cell phone ban

Appellate court unanimously sides with New York City school officials, dismissing parents' arguments that the policy is too broad and interferes with their ability to reach their kids.

New York City's controversial prohibition of cell phones on school grounds can continue, a state appellate court has unanimously ruled.

The city's school system instituted the possession ban in September 2005 as part of its efforts to maintain school security and discipline, contending the mobile gadgets can promote cheating and harassment, and began confiscating them from students the next year. But parent advocates had challenged the rules as overly broad and irrational, arguing that cell phones were a "lifeline" for families trying to reach their students, particularly during their commutes and after-school activities.

In an opinion released Tuesday, the appellate court disagreed sharply with the parents' stance.

"The cell phone ban does not directly and substantially interfere with any of the rights alleged by the parents," Justice Angela Mazzarelli wrote in the opinion.

The justice also took a shot at adult cell phone use, writing:

The Chancellor's determination that a mere ban on cell phone use would not be sufficiently effective was not irrational. It is now routine before theater, movie and other cultural presentations attended by adults, for patrons to be asked to turn off their cell phones. Even then there is no guarantee that the cell phone of an inattentive person will not ring at an inopportune time. While the vast majority of public school children are respectful and well-behaved, it was not unreasonable for the Chancellor to recognize that if adults cannot be fully trusted to practice proper cell phone etiquette, then neither can children.

The fight may not be over yet: The group of parents battling the ban is considering asking the state's highest court to look at the case, according to a New York Daily News report.

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    Anne Broache
    covers Capitol Hill goings-on and technology policy from Washington, D.C.
     

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