Whelan-Rice Move to Repeal 1989 Law Banning Pagers on School Property

From left to right: Senators Ronald L. Rice, D-Essex, and Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic, both members of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, discuss a bill during a committee meeting.

TRENTON – Senator Jim Whelan and Senator Ronald Rice introduced legislation this week that would repeal an outdated law that prohibits an elementary or secondary school student from knowingly bringing or possessing on school property a pager, without the permission of the board of education or a school principal.

“In today’s digital world, where students are taking smartphones and other technologies to school, keeping a law on the books that bans pagers in school seems futile,” said Senator Whelan (D-Atlantic). “The technology has become obsolete, with some exception for doctors and other emergency personnel, and social dynamics have changed so significantly that it no longer makes sense to keep the law.”

“In the late 80s and 90s, pagers were not only disruptive in schools but they were often considered synonymous with drug dealing, and the law made sense back then,” said Senator Rice (D-Essex), sponsor of the original law. “Fast forward almost three decades and it’s no longer an issue. Schools now develop their own policies about cell phones on school property. The law has clearly outlived its usefulness, and it’s time to come off the books.”

The original law regulated the sale and possession of paging devices for anyone under the age of 18. Under Section 2 of the law, elementary and secondary school students are guilty of a disorderly persons offense if they bring a paging device to school without express written permission of the school board.

Section 2 was amended in 1996 to allow for an exemption to active members of a volunteer fire company or first aid, ambulance or rescue squad provided that the student carries with him or her at all times while in possession of the pager a statement by the chief of the volunteer fire company or first aid squad authorizing the student to possess the pager.

The bill, S-3084, would specifically repeal section 2 of law – P.L.1989, c.232 (C.2C:33-19).