First off, this is an article in the Times about kids, so let's consider the class angle. By all appearances, this story is about privileged white students and parents having a fit over being subjected to something (metal detectors) that many, many poor students in urban schools are subjected to every day. Not to say I agree with the policy, but this is only news when it is done to white kids.
Concerning cell phones in schools in general, I think there is a sensible center, but I'm not sure you've got a grasp on it. It seems to me that having cell phones in school is inevitable, but I really can't see having them on or out in class, with some caveats I'll explain below.If you are pro-cell phones in schools, does that mean you think seventh graders should be able to answer and place phone calls in your class? If 13 year old kids are sending and receiving SMS's when they should be programming their robots, is it OK for the teacher to tell them to knock it off? If they say, "I'm asking someone a question about my robot" does the teacher have to back off?
I think cell phone enthusiasm is the kind of thing which increases the further one gets from an actual core subject area classroom. It is easy to think of vague, gauzy uses for cell phones in the classroom, but it is a lot harder to think of specific ways they would improve the educational process in an English, Math, Science or Social Studies classroom. The contrast with, say, blogging, is stark; once you understand the basics of blogging the ideas pour out. Certainly in a school like The Met, where kids are off campus much of the time, the utility is clear, but not in most schools, even most progressive schools.
The only reason cell phones will be important pedagogically in schools in 2011 is if educational computing, as it has been constructed over the past three decades, finally fails completely. I think that people who are very excited about the possiblities for cell phones see an opportunity for a fresh start, but it is a mirage. The same problems will follow us, on a platform which is inherently less hospitable than the general purpose computer.