Banning cell phones is the lazy person's solution to a problem. The fact that this is a commonly accept solution is indicative of larger issues with society (but that is another topic). First, if a student misuses the cell phone (i.E. Texts or talks during class), then that individual should be held responsible for their action(s). It is not only unfair but an infringement on the other students' natural rights to remove their cell phone privileges even if they did not violate any rules. Second, smart phones nowadays act as multipurpose tools. They are calculators, dictionaries, encyclopedias and have the potential to greatly enhance the learning experience. People in positions of authority such as teachers and PARENTs should enforce the rules rather than punish/infringe upon the rights of the entire group due to the irresponsibility of the few.
In school, it's all about learning. For the sake of discussion, when cell phones are mentioned, I will assume that smart phones are being referred to. Cell phones provide users with an instant access to the international web of knowledge (aka. The Internet). In a school, where learning is the first priority, having access to the internet will greatly enhance the learning process.
In addition, let us assume that an orchestra teacher gives a last minute rehearsal after school. How will 50 kids contact their parents to let them know about this last minute change? Use a class phone? No, they should use their cell phones. It is both efficient, and results in the least disturbance of class time.
It's understandable if students are banned from using their phones during a test. It's the same reason why you ban other books during a test. But it's ridiculous to ban mobile phones during classes. While yes, it can be distracting, it isn't any more of a distraction than any other thing there is, like sleeping/passing notes/talking to seat mates. If students want to learn, they will listen. If they don't, they will get distracted either way - with or without phones.
In addition, it eliminates tools such as calculators. And it allows quick research for students that are truly interested in the topic, so they can learn more.
If mobile phones are banned during class hours, they should at least be allowed during breaks.
Celllphones can be used as calculators, dictionaries, and to research topics for a report. They can also be used to contact the student's parents if a plan is changed or if the parent needs to pick the student up. Cellphones help students be organized. The can log their schedule, materials, and homework on their phones. Furthermore, they encourage effective and modern innovation and change.
I, as have many of you, been in a classroom where someone's phone goes off in the middle of a lecture, or a class. It's annoying and distracting. Does that mean that we should remove all cellphones from all schools?
Similar situation (that I'm sure has happened to many of us as well) : You go to the movie theaters and sit down, ready to enjoy your cinema. Suddenly the human giraffe comes and sits in front of you, and you can't see. Is it annoying and distracting? Yes. Should we remove all tall people from theaters? No.
(Assuming that this school is filled legal adults 18 + years old) the government, or any institution cannot make possession of a cell phone illegal, or punishable. The cell phone is not a weapon, drug, or any other 'harmful' device and therefore it is a violation of our civil liberties.
Can those institutions impose sanctions should the cell phone disrupt the class? Of course. That's not to say that it's fair, but if a cell phone goes off during a final - it could result in sanctions (failed class, expulsion, etc). Generally that's not the case, however that is an appropriate action for the disruption.
As for schools with minors (18 years or younger) - the argument that the parents pay for the phone, and the kid has the right to have it is pointless. The minor is just that, a minor. If the school banns cell phones, or at least in class, and they're caught with it, they should receive just sanctions. At free-times, I don't see a problem with them having them in public school systems, but for some private schools, I would encourage a campus-wide ban on cell phones.
Overall, I have to say that cell phones should be allowed.
I don't see any point/purpose in allowing them to be used at school. They will end up as a major distraction, and students won't focus on the school work at hand. It's also an easy cheat method, and students won't be caught due to the fact that teachers can't manage them all at once.