Courtesy of TechWeb News Opponents of New York City's ban on cell phones in public schools plan to challenge the rule in court. Civil rights attorney Norman Siegel told am New York (www.amny.com) that the ban has no rational basis and will not stand up to scrutiny. Siegel said there is no reason to prohibit phones, which can be turned off. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, and officials with the New York City Department of Education have argued that cell phones disrupt the learning environment. United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten told the newspaper that each school should be able to set its own policy because as much as teachers dislike misuse, they recognize that the phones can be a tool for safety. He also pointed out that they are almost a necessity for students who travel up to two hours to get to classes. Officials banned cell phones in public schools nearly 20 years ago, but many schools did not enforce the policy until last month when security guards used new metal detectors to confiscate more than 800 phones. National School Safety and Security Services, a Cleveland-based consulting firm, has received numerous inquiries in the past five years about whether phones should be allowed in schools for emergencies. "On a day-to-day basis, they are disruptive to the educational environment," the group states on its Web site. "This has also been the general position of many school districts over the years." Though students have used cell phones during terrorist attacks and shooting rampages, the group states that phones can be used to call in bomb threats, detonate bombs and to pass on misinformation and overload networks during a crisis.