Brawling students and abuse of teachers over cell phones has been almost wiped out this year at Tararua College following a parent-driven ban on phones at the school.

Tararua College deputy principal Alan West said the college enforced the ban on cell phones at the school after parents demanded a vote.

The ban was enforced "with well in excess of 80 per cent support" from parents at the beginning of the final term last year, he said.

"The issue of cell phones first emerged on the horizon at the beginning of last year. We thought nothing of it and that was a very big mistake.

"We endured two terms of chaos. There was endless trouble -- disputes between pupils, fights between pupils, and rows between pupils. It was a nightmare.

"Confiscation was also a big problem and huge time-waster. We were confiscating cell phones by the absolute ton," he said.

"There were thefts of phones and teachers were being abused and threatened when they tried to take phones away. I'm six foot one so it was less of an issue for me but if the teacher is short and of lesser stature things were getting out of hand very quickly. I'd have to get it off them," he said.

"A child and their cell phone are not easily parted."

The problem this year, he said, has been almost completely resolved by the ban.

"This year we have reduced the horrendous civil strife by 95 per cent although pupils still try to smuggle them in."

Pupils are forbidden from using or carrying cell phones and must surrender them if caught in breach of the ban during school hours. The phones are kept until the end of that week and returned to the pupil's parent or guardian only.

Mr West said the "nature of schoolyard bullying has not changed in 20 years" and those pupils who bully would use any means available to pursue their ends.

He said the drop-off in reported cases of cell phone abuse at the college may also be linked to the fact that pupils have become aware abusive phone use may be traced to the abuser.

There had been two or three referrals to police resulting from threatening and abusive use of cell phones by Tararua College pupils.

- WAIRARAPA TIMES-AGE (MASTERTON)