The Maryland House of Delegates voted Feb. 9 to repeal a state law that makes it illegal for students to bring pagers and cell phones onto school grounds.

The 110-26 House vote followed a spirited debate, during which supporters argued that cell phones help parents and students stay in touch, while opponents warned that allowing phones and pagers in school will encourage drug crime and distract students.

The law was passed in 1989 at a time school officials were worried that students were using pagers to set up drug deals.

“This is an obsolete law,” Delegate Ann Marie Doory, D-Baltimore, said. She told delegates that it bans not only pagers, the original target, but also cell phones and laptop computers.

Supporters said many students, especially those in after-school activities, need cell phones to let parents know when those activities end, arrange rides, and just stay in touch.

“It’s no longer considered a drug issue. It’s a safety issue,” Delegate Joseph Vallario, D-Prince George’s, said. He said if the law is repealed, local school systems will have the power to ban cell phones from school grounds or regulate their use.

That did not satisfy Delegate Joanne Benson, D-Prince George’s, a public school teacher and administrator.

“I am in adamant opposition to HB67 as a 38-year educator,” Benson said. “I can’t imagine how we could have our youngsters with a phone.” She predicted cell phones will be a distraction in classes and will put yet another burden on overworked teachers and administrators.

The bill will now go to the Senate, which has not yet acted on its bill dealing with pagers and cell phones.