New Jersey School's Controversial Method To Try To Curb Bullying Has Parents Divided

Did the school go too far?

girl left out in class CarlosDavid/Robert Kneschke - Shutterstock

Bullying can have a profound impact on kids and the fallout can last a lifetime. In New Jersey, the problem has become so pervasive that multiple children have opted to end their lives as incidents of bullying have become more and more commonplace.

Seeking strategies to reduce the risk of bullying, Red Bank Regional High School has put a plan in place to address it, but not everyone thinks it’s a good idea.


The New Jersey school has decided to ban cell phones.

While in class, the phones will be placed in a tower out of reach, allowing students to stay focused and refrain from cyberbullying. It’s an overall effort to improve and maintain the mental health of the kids at the school.

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The new policy has not been without controversy. Some believe that the school has gone too far and has no right to hold on to students’ personal property. Parents are especially concerned that their kids will not have a method of communicating in the event of an emergency, a very valid worry, considering the violence permeating our schools.

The school is just one of many that have banned students from using cell phones in class. 

The National Center for Education Statistics said that in 2020, 76% of United States schools implemented cell phone bans. The restrictions range broadly, but all of them were prompted by the realization that the use of phones at school was affecting student behavior and mental health and creating unnecessary distractions. With the growth of social media, more and more kids are prioritizing their phones rather than being present in class. 

Still, some experts urge school districts not to go too far when it comes to policing students, concerned about how the lack of autonomy could influence the culture at each school. Then there is the potential for teachers to have physical confrontations with kids over their phones, a valid concern with violence in the classroom on the rise. Many don't believe that the educational benefits of confiscating phones are worth educators risking their lives and well-being. 

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Do cell phone bans in schools really reduce bullying?

It’s complicated. Studies show that removing cell phones from the classroom improves grades and increases collaboration between students. That connectedness can definitely reduce the divides that contribute to bullying. But whether phones are banned in class or not, cyberbullying can take place once they get home or even in between classes.

For a ban on cell phones to really work, it must be coupled with programs that teach kids empathy and respect, acceptance of differences in other students, and disciplinary procedures that punish bullies for misbehaving, a method of reporting bullying without fear of retaliation, and groups that include students and parents who meet regularly to address the issue. Counseling services must also be made available to both the victim and the aggressor to get to the root of the problem with the intention of protecting the student being bullied from further harm.

Parents are pivotal in preventing their children from being bullies or getting bullied.

Time will tell whether or not the cell phone ban works in New Jersey, but parents can help by making sure they don’t raise children who victimize others or teach that being bullied is the norm, never enabling problematic behavior, and addressing it head-on if they believe their child is mistreating his or her classmates.

If your student happens to be the one getting bullied, know that it’s not just a matter of toughening up. They will need support, advocacy, and for you to stand with them when reporting and addressing the situation. Even if you child is just a witness to the bullying, empower them to stand up for others and stop it before it escalates.


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NyRee Ausler is a writer from Seattle, Washington. She covers lifestyle, relationships, and human-interest stories that readers can relate to and that bring social issues to the forefront for discussion.