Last call: Codey to make bill limiting cell phone use in schools his final piece of legislation

Former governor — and 50-year public servant — going out with bill that addresses most modern of problems in schools

Students High School Group With Professor Using Cell Smart Phones Hands Close Up, Young People Sit Desk University Classroom Social Network Communication Chatting Messaging

With 50 years under his belt in the Legislature, Richard Codey never shied away from tackling controversial topics. So maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that Codey, who is leaving the Legislature next week, wants to go out with a bang.

Codey, the former Senate president and the state’s 53rd governor, plans to introduce a bill later this week that would aim to limit student use of cell phone in public schools. Unlike some districts that have adopted all-out bans on school grounds, Codey’s bill aims to restrict usage during instructional periods. He cited several studies globally that tied phone restrictions to better academic performance.

Sen. Richard Codey. (File photo)

In November, the editorial board of the Washington Post also endorsed phone bans in schools, urging parents to support the movement.

“Talk to any educator, and they will tell you we must create optimal learning environments in our classrooms. This begins by eliminating the persistent distraction that pulls on all of us: the glow of our cell phones, the next TikTok that’s making its rounds or the latest reply in the group chat,” Codey wrote in a Facebook post previewing the legislation.

Codey acknowledged arguments for students having their phones all day while at school, notably for emergency situations such as a medical conditions or school shootings. While accepting of those arguments, he favors a “common-sense approach.”

Distracted students, Codey said, “miss crucial explanations, struggle to retain information and lose valuable learning time.” He also believes kids are “more susceptible to bullying when everyone around them has their digital weapon at the ready the entire school day.”

“This legislation isn’t about demonizing technology, but about maximizing its benefits,” Codey wrote. “Phones remain accessible outside classrooms, enabling communication, learning opportunities and social connection. This approach fosters responsible technology use, preparing students for a world where focus and digital awareness are crucial skills.”

Codey, who also owns the Codey & Mackey Funeral Home in Boonton and the Codey Funeral Home in Caldwell, began his legislative career as a 27-year-old assemblyman. He moved up to the Senate, where he served as Senate president. He also famously replaced James McGreevey as governor in 2004 and became one of the state’s most popular governors ever, but decided not to run against Jon Corzine in the 2005 Democratic primary.

Next Tuesday will Codey’s final session as a senator — 50 years and 1 day since he was sworn in as an assemblyman Jan. 8, 1974.