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A Ban on Silly Bandz? Is That OK?

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Dr. Wendy Walsh: Yesterday, my second grader came home from school with a whopping announcement: The principal at her school had called an assembly to announce (among other things) that from this day forward, Silly Bandz were banned from school.

Silly Bandz
For those in a zip code where kids aren't crazed about the trend, Silly Bandz are brightly colored rubber bands that kids wear on their wrists like bracelets. The thing that makes them "silly" is that when you take one off and lay it on a table, it forms a unique shape. And Silly Bandz come in every shape imaginable, from animals designed to raise environmental awareness to Mattel and Nickelodeon characters to everything Justin Bieber. They are cheap -- $5.99 for a pack of 24 -- and fun to collect and trade. 

The shocking dinner-table announcement was followed up with a retort from my middle schooler. "Yeah, at my school, only seventh and eighth graders are allowed to wear them. Sixth graders have lost the privilege." Apparently, kids are flinging them in other kids' eyes at middle school, and at the elementary-school level, the coveted items have been sources of conflict and theft. 

The news was only dismal for me because I thought I had found a super affordable way to reward good behavior. Having avoided or participated in expensive toy crazes in the past -- Littlest Pet Shop, Polly Pocket, Kooky Pens and the mother of all overpriced collectables, American Girl dolls -- I'd found Silly Bandz to be the perfect recession solution. My kids will clean their rooms, brush their teeth AND take out the trash for the price of only one Silly Bandz -- 25 cents. 

For those who question giving positive rewards at all, please know that I prefer to water what I want to grow, not the weeds. So I don't give a whole lot of attention to bad behavior unless it encroaches on someone else's rights. My third grader once read a hundred chapter books for an American Girl doll! In my house, nothing comes free except on birthdays and Christmas. They must earn everything, and it's amazing what kind of labor I can get for one iTunes song!  

When I posted the news of the Silly Bandz ban on Facebook, I heard parents around the country complain like it was a human rights violation. Some parents thought the school administration could use the bracelets as a way to teach peacekeeping and conflict-resolution skills. Others thought schools should be using them as a reward. Still others thought it was a violation of freedom of expression. 

In my opinion, school administrators have enough things to worry about besides some piece of rubber distracting kids from their work. Ban away, if it's cutting into academics, I say. As for my 7-year-old, this morning I watched her hide a wristful of the neon contraband under a long-sleeved shirt. It's not my rule. It's the school's rule. And today she'll get to learn the consequences of not following school rules. Silly Bandz just might earn her a not-so-silly stint picking up trash at recess. And the school has every right to do that.

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28 comments so far | Post a comment now
Rachel October 19, 2010, 7:53 AM

My daughter came home from school and said that her teacher asked that they don’t bring the Bandz to class. As parents we all cooperated (though it is a small class) and we bring them for after school trading on the playground.
The teachers have the right to dictate what is allowed in their classroom. If they are distracting the class then my kid isn’t learning. I pick class work over my kid’s toy “rights”.

Anonymous October 19, 2010, 8:04 AM

I’m worried about the kids who are allergic to latex. These bands are like the walking death for them. I think it’s fine for administrators to ban these. I volunteer at my church’s bible study and I have to tell my kindergarteners to put them away whenever I see them. If one kid has silly bandz the rest of them are all distracted.

violet4ever October 19, 2010, 1:30 PM

For Anonymous - Silly bands are made of silicone, not latex.

Melissa October 19, 2010, 6:00 PM

I am a librarian at a elementary school. Our school hasn’t banned them yet, but a lot of the teachers are complaining about them. The kids flick them, chew on them, pass them around, etc. I simply tell them if they are off their wrist they are mine. I haven’t had to take any yet, the kids love those things. Oddly enough my own kids attend a school 5 miles away and they have never asked for any.

JFFIELD October 19, 2010, 8:07 PM

Silly Bandz are the rage and schools should use them creatively as rewards for children. The new Justin Bieber and Spongebob Silly Bandz came out and are on for reasonable prices. Teachers should buy them and use them to help children learn. Why ban them? It doesn’t make any sense at all. It just makes children want them more.

PartlySunny October 19, 2010, 8:11 PM

It seems to me that the bandz should be treated like any other toy at school. If they bring it and they’re playing with it during class, it gets taken away. I’d think that after that happened about two or three times, the kids would either opt to keep them in their bags, on their wrists, or at home. And I actually disagree with your decision to let your daughter sneak them to school. I realize it’s their rule, but it puts the entire burden on them — which didn’t need to happen, since you saw her put them on. I guess I’m projecting into the future. Will you let her go out and break the law — even something as “innocent” as egging someone’s car — knowing the police should just pick her up and she’ll have to deal with the consequences? Anyway, it just kind of seems like letting a kid get away with lying.

Anonymous October 19, 2010, 10:03 PM

I’m sorry, what? Teachers should use their own money to ‘reward’ your child for doing work your child is expected to do anyway? I guess that tells us all how involved you are with your child.

As for the bandz, yes, teachers should be supported. Children find enough distractions as it is just by playing with their pencils and erasers. They don’t need more stuff on their desks.

Elementary teacher October 19, 2010, 10:21 PM

As I teacher I feel the need to respond. Within 3 weeks of school starting our school banned these for many reasons. First and foremost they are a distraction. The kids are playing with them when they should be listening. Their classmates want to see what shapes they have which now means more than one child is distracted than multiply that by how many kids are actually wearing them. Outside of the classroom is another issue. These bands have been used to shoot at others on the playground risking potential harm. They have also been the cause of many conflicts. When one shares with another but not with everyone feelings are hurt which need to be dealt with. With constant budget cuts towards education our main goal is to educate children and keep them safe. We don’t have the means to mediate every little conflict that arises from children wearing these bands. I say Ban the Bandz!

Mother of Two October 20, 2010, 6:54 AM

Anonymous at 10:03AM I don’t think teachers are actually using their own money. They are using the tax money that we give them to buy them.

tysmom October 20, 2010, 7:38 AM

to Mother of Two: once those tax dollars pass over to the teachers in the form of wages they become their own money. What an ignorant comment!

Yes Silly Bandz can be a distraction in the classroom but the threat of confiscation usually does the trick. The problem most likely is happening during non-classroom time (e.g. recess, lunch, before/after school, passing period) which is very hard for our short staffed schools to control as it is but which they remain VERY liable for.

Women October 20, 2010, 2:30 PM

tysmom F you!!

Women October 20, 2010, 2:31 PM

tysmom F you!!

Women October 20, 2010, 2:31 PM

tysmom F you!!

Rachel October 20, 2010, 7:11 PM

Mother of Two — I assume you’re talking about the school’s money — money budgeted to the school by the district or state. Unfortunately, schools are too busy using this money to pay teachers, buy books, and install learning software on aging computers to use it on petty things like Silly Bandz.
I teach at the high school level and we have banned lots of things for safety and “good of the population” reasons, like hoodies, backpacks/purses in the classrooms, bandannas, excessively large “bling,” etc. If Silly Bandz are distracting students during instructional time or are risking their safety or well-being (causing fights, resentments, etc.), they should be banned. It’s generally considered bad form to give problem-causing items out as rewards.

Carol October 20, 2010, 8:25 PM

Tysmom - ignore “Women”. It’s obvious what she/he’s is.

Debt Consolidation October 23, 2010, 9:22 PM

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Mary January 23, 2011, 3:18 PM

I’m 11 and I’m allergic to them. I can hardly breath in class. I think they should be aginst the law period!

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