NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Mayor Bill de Blasio is lifting a longtime ban that prevented children from having cellphones in New York City public schools.

De Blasio announced the policy change Wednesday afternoon in a news conference at a Brooklyn school. If approved by the Panel for Educational Policy, the new policy would go into effect March 2.

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“This will empower our parents, this will strengthen our parents’ ability to protect their children and be there for our children and this is a policy that actually responds to the needs of our parents,” de Blasio said.

“We have a policy right now that makes it impossible for parents to communicate with their kids. Who brought these children into the world? The parents. Who’s first and foremost responsible for their safety and their well-being? The parents,” the mayor added.

“Lifting the cell phone ban is about common sense, while ensuring student safety as well as high-level learning in our classrooms,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “As a parent and a grandmother, I know that families and children feel safer when our students have access to cellphones. ”

As WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reported, Fariña said policies will differ from school to school, adding we have to come into the 21st century. But she also noted if any student abuses the privilege, the phone will be taken away.

“In my opinion, I would say that it would only be given back if the parent has to come to school and pick it up,” Farina said.

The existing rule requires cellphones and electronic devices like iPads to be left at home. The ban was put in place by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It has never been enforced consistently.

At schools without metal detectors, many students bring phones and keep them stowed in their backpacks. But most schools with metal detectors enforce the ban. Some students pay $1 a day to store their phones in a van or at a local business.

As CBS2’s Valerie Castro reported, the mayor himself has said being able to reach his children is crucial.

“This city in terms of the policies of the previous administration was simply out of touch with the realities of modern day parenting,” the mayor said.

The ban would be replaced with a new cellphone plan in which each school would be able to choose a range of options for students.

Under one plan, students would be asked to store mobile devices in their backpacks or another designated location during the school day. Under another, they would be allowed to use their cellphones during lunch or in designated areas only. In a third plan, cellphones would be allowed for instructional purposes in some or all classrooms.

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Principals and teachers at each school would decide on the best option.

The New York City Parents Union endorsed the idea, saying it has been championing a lift on the cellphone ban for years.

“As parents, we will feel more comfortable knowing we can keep in contact with our children while they are commuting to school,” the union said in a news release. “Moreover, we are glad this unfair policy will be abolished, since it primarily disenfranchised students in communities of color.”

Students at the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology told 1010 WINS’ Holli Haerr they bring phones in because their school doesn’t have metal detectors and it’s okay as long as they are discreet.

“It’s going to be a really great, new, exciting experience for a lot of students,” one senior told Haerr.

Critics of phones in schools have cited concerns about cheating, theft and the risk of students using their phones to summon a crowd for a fight.

“School is to learn, that’s the bottom line, it’s distracting,” Melvin Elias said.

“The question is, the kids have to know they’re not supposed to use the phone during the day,” one parent added.

Ernest Logan, the head of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, said in a statement, “Our collective priority is educating students in a safe and secure environment. We hope these new policies do not undermine that goal.”

De Blasio promised to end the ban during his 2013 mayoral campaign.

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