Cell Phones in Schools: School Safety

Families may want a direct connection to their students through a cell phone during the school day. Cell phones in school policies may prompt questions and concerns about school safety. Schools and districts can engage in dialogue with families and students about these concerns and highlight how cell phones impact school safety. Student cell phones often make the educational environment less safe both physically and emotionally. Many schools and districts experience disruptive and unsafe learning environments because student phone use is linked to distraction, bullying, physical violence, and false security threats. 

It is reasonable for families to want to be able to quickly contact their students or to have their students be able to call for help or contact  family members in an emergency. But during an emergency, when students and families are trying to call and text, it is likely to be less safe.  

The use of cell phones by students could decrease, not increase, school safety throughout the school day or during a crisis:

  • Cell phones and social media can be used to spread threats and coordinate acts of violence.
  • Use of cell phones by students can accelerate the spread of misinformation, rumors, and fear.
  • Cell phones could ring or vibrate at a point when students need to be quiet for safety reasons.
  • Students on cell phones are likely less focused on listening to adults for directions on how to respond and stay safe.
  • Cell phones can lead to families arriving at the school and make it more difficult for first responders to facilitate safe evacuation and tactical and emergency response.
  • Cell phones can delay or hinder timely and efficient family-student reunification and potentially put families into a zone of harm.  

Emergency Management Considerations 

Cell phones in school policies do not remove all phones from schools. Cell phones are recommended for school administrators and crisis team members as an emergency management resource tool. School staff should have access to communication devices to contact the school office should emergency conditions arise.   

School leaders should create a comprehensive School Emergency Management Plan and procedures with student and family buy-in. To be implemented consistently, the policy should provide clear guidelines and expectations for students, parents, and school staff phone use and consequences. School boards, administrators, crisis teams, and public safety officials should consider adding the following for safety, security, and emergency/crisis management plans:  

  1. Incorporate clear cell phone rules into the school safety plan.  
  1. Communicate with students, families, and staff about the impact of cell phones on the safety of day-to-day educational environments and expectations for cell phone use during a crisis.  
  1. Share crisis communication plans and social media strategies with families in the event of security incidents and emergencies.  
  1. Make clear the reunification plan for families and community members to reconnect with their students in the recovery period of a safety concern.  

Resources for Safety 

Other Toolkit Resources 

Last Modified: 5/30/2024 8:28:34 AM