As New Jersey school kids head back to class, many of them will be carrying cell phones, tablets and other electronic devices - with the full blessing of education officials.

Cell phones in schools are becoming more acceptable. (sofyx, ThinkStock)
Cell phones in schools are becoming more acceptable. (sofyx, ThinkStock)

According to Frank Belluscio, the deputy executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association, individual school boards across the Garden State set their own specific policies, not only cell phones but all electronic devices that may connect students to the internet and be used to send emails and texts.

"Students are allowed to have these devices in school for use at certain times, for instance during breaks in class periods or after school hours," Belluscio said.

He says in most cases, students are instructed to turn off electronic devices during class, but kept in the student's possession.

Belluscio also said that not to many years ago cell phones were completely banned, but that was then and this is now.

"After situations such as Columbine where there was a safety factor in students having access to cell phones, districts have migrated away from that, and besides, there is some educational value to those devices, however school districts want to make sure that they are used properly, that they're not disruptive," he said.

He also says schools want to make sure these devices are not used for harassment, intimidation, or any kind of bullying.

"School board policies need to be very specific," Belluscio said. "They need to reflect educational goals and protect students and staff."

Pat Wright, the executive director of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, said electronic devices are now seen as instructional tools.

"More and more we're recognizing that cell phones are part of 21st century learning. In many schools the cell phone is an instructional tool now, it's used for note-taking, it's used for polling in the classroom," Wright said.

She said what schools are trying to do is educate young people about the appropriate use of technology -  because we can't pretend it doesn't exist or it isn't a major part of students lives

"A lot of schools are coming to realize that technology needs to be integrated into the curriculum and thus enhancing kids ability to use technology appropriately," she said.

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