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New York City is lifting its ban on cell phones in schools

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Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

New York City's Department of Education has decided to do away with a ban on student cell phone use in public schools, ending a nine-year-old rule that was enacted when smartphones were barely a thing. The ban was originally put into place by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg under the guise that cell phones were not only a distraction to students, but also a potential privacy issue for schools if students were to use them to take illicit photographs.

A lot has changed since 2006, including phones

In a speech today, cuurent New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that times have changed quite a bit since the idea was hatched, and that the ban ultimately created more issues it was originally designed to solve. That includes spurring a cottage industry of rental lockers outside of schools where students could pay to safely store their phones, racking up charges that averaged an extra $180 a year. Moreover, de Blasio said it made it extremely difficult for parents to get in touch with their kids. "We used to have a policy that didn't understand the reality of parents," de Blasio said. "We're now going to make this a policy that works with parents so they can do their most important job."

The new policy requires approval from the city's panel for educational policy next month, and would go into effect on March 2nd if approved. As part of the change, the city says schools would be able to create localized sets of rules about phone use on both school grounds and in classrooms, with the stipulation that would be extra training to identify and prevent cyberbullying.