Distracting wrist band toys banned from Monument classrooms

By: CAROL MCGRAW
September 8, 2010
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photo - Michael Bunnell is a Silly Bandz wearer on the weekends now. He has more than 80 of the popular shaped rubber band wrist decorations. He goes to Bear Creek Elementary School in Monument. Photo by JERILEE BENNETT/The Gazette
Michael Bunnell is a Silly Bandz wearer on the weekends now. He has more than 80 of the popular shaped rubber band wrist decorations. He goes to Bear Creek Elementary School in Monument. Photo by JERILEE BENNETT/The Gazette 

Seven-year-old Michael Bunnell has a big stash of Silly Bandz, the rubber-band like toys. Like any discriminating collector, he has special ones that he liked to show off at school.

“Dinosaurs are my favorites. But we can’t take them to school anymore.”

Alas, it’s true. The second grader attends Bear Creek Elementary School in Monument, where most teachers have banned the wrist toys from classrooms.

“I’’ll have to start paying more attention. I didn’t notice if Michael was taking them to school. I didn’t pat him down,” said his mother, Janna Bunnell.

Administrators say kids play with them, chew on them, trade them, and shoot them into the air - and they’ve become a distraction.

This can have negative impact on learning, says Principal Peggy Parsley. During a meeting earlier this week, school staff decided to leave the decision up to individual teachers. But most agreed to ban them.

Those who teach music, PE and  art were particularly concerned. They see upwards of 270 students a day, Parsley notes, and it can get pretty confusing when Silly Bandz bring a litany of kiddie complaints: “I left it on the piano and you gave it to the wrong person!”  “I didn’t mean to trade that, tell him to give it back!”  

Quite a few schools nationwide have bans, but Bear Creek educators say they may be the first locally to put their foot down. (And you can bet it’s a foot that doesn’t have any Silly Bandz on the ankle, as some girls like to wear them.)

Officials at Colorado Springs School District 11, Harrison School District 2 and Falcon School District 49 say they don’t know of any bans in their schools.  

The bands were invented in Japan in 2002 and became trendy here a couple of years ago when BPC Imports of Toledo began selling them as Silly Bandz, according to news reports. Now several companies offer them under different names.  

They sometimes are compared to the larger silicone awareness bracelets popular with youths and adults promoting a cause.  

The inexpensive stretchy bands are made of thin molded silicone that keeps their shape whether it’s a likeness of a star, fruit, car, pet, alphabet letter or whatever. One particularly popular set is the Justin Bieber 24-pack that sells online for $5.95 and features shapes of guitars and the teen heartthrob singing.  

Ricci Strohl, whose 10-year-old son Braden sometimes trades them, said she can’t tell what the shapes are supposed to represent. “He’ll say it looks like a dolphin, and I say, no it looks like a car.”

She likes Bear Creek's stance. “I can see that all that extra stuff kids take to school could be a problem. These days everyone wants to cater to kids, and what they need is discipline and guidelines like that.”

Doctors have gotten on the ban the bands bandwagon, too, warning that wearing bunches around the wrist for long periods could constrict blood flow and cause blood clots.

Indeed, a Bear Creek teacher discovered a boy with a bunch twisted tightly around his wrist.

“It was cutting into his arm, making a mark,” Parsley said. “Some kids are trying to make necklaces out of the little ones, which could be a real problem.”

And by the way, she, too, is honoring the ban.

“A student gave me a really pretty one. It’s a flag that turns color in the sun. I’ve been wearing it to school,” Parsley said. ”But now it stays home on my dresser.”

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