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School bans cellphones

Amid a global cyberbullying crisis, Masterton Intermediate School [MIS] has made the bold move to ban all cellphones from the school grounds.
The school has had to deal with numerous instances of cyberbullying, theft, filmed fights, and students refusing to hand over their phones in class.
Principal Russell Thompson and deputy principal Olivia Geange sent a letter to parents this week which said that students would no longer be able to bring cellphones to school from Monday [October 31].
The letter told parents they could contact their child during the school day via the office or by emailing their child’s class teacher.
Inappropriate cellphone use had been a problem for years, but Geange and Thompson decided to take action after they heard a talk from Australian psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg.
Carr-Gregg said in the talk that cyberbullying was at crisis levels: Approximately 70 per cent of intermediate students are on numerous social media platforms. He said that social media tends to bring out the worst behaviour in early adolescents.
Wairarapa Times-Age has witnessed video footage of MIS students fighting in a public place in Masterton.
Some students have already been stood down or suspended for social-media-related bullying this year.
In the new policy, any student who brings a cellphone to school will need to hand it into the office, except for the small number of students with authorised exemptions.
Office staff will contact parents who will need to pick it up at the end of the day.
“Inappropriate use of cellphones is widespread, and it’s been an ongoing behaviour issue for us for at least three years,” Thompson said.
There were some instances of stolen phones and students posting videos of others fighting in uniform on social media.
Some students had taken photos of other students without consent and then posted those photos to social media.
“The policy is for the wellbeing of students; no child’s wellbeing deserves to be treated like that,” deputy principal Olivia Geange said.
MIS’s previous policy required students to hand their phones to the teacher every day and get them back at the end of the day.
Geange said some students were not complying with the policy, leading to the need for stricter measures.
“It’s a preventative measure to stop cyberbullying while at school,” Thompson said
Liz Polley, Chair of the MIS board of trustees, supported the change.
“It’s a positive move because we’ve seen an increase in these types of negative behaviour.
“We’ve already received supportive feedback from parents.”
Polley thought there would be many flow-on benefits of the policy.
“We will see students develop their emotional and social skills by interacting with each other at break time, rather than sitting on their phones,” she said.
The school already has discipline policies, including a two-day stand-down for vaping, assault, or swearing at a teacher.
Now, the new policy will add the use of a cellphone to the list of no-gos at MIS.
Thompson spoke to principals at other schools with similar policies.
The principal of Otago Boys High said he wished he had banned cellphones five years ago.
Geange said, “Our core business is teaching and learning; at our school, cellphones are not a part of that.”
Next year the school will host an information evening for parents called Our Schools Online with guest speaker Rob Cope.
The talk will provide parents with various strategies for raising children in an online world.

  • Wairarapa Times-Age chose not to specify the details of filmed bullying incidents to protect the victims’ identities.

Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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