The latest schoolyard craze causing a ruckus is the Rainbow Loom, which involves a crochet hook and multicolored rubber bands, and results in colorful bracelets that are the passion of elementary school girls and boys everywhere. Two New York City schools, however, feel the passion may be poisoning recess and classroom time.
In one Upper West side school, P.S. 87, anything related to Rainbow Looms is considered contraband, while in Brooklyn’s P.S. 107, students are still allowed to wear the bracelets, but they are no longer allowed to bring the “looms” and “related paraphernalia” to school.
Some parents are scratching their heads over the decision to ban what they see as a highly creative outlet for kids. In a world where arts education budgets can be strapped, prohibiting an artistic recess activity can seem counterintuitive.
The Rainbow Loom also defies stereotypical gender norms, as boys and girls are similarly obsessed with making, trading and giving the bracelets to their friends. In a story for Time magazine, Annie Murphy Paul expressed surprise when her 7-year old son, who normally plays football and baseball, asked for a kit and embraced “the distinctly feminine activity of making jewelry.” Murphy argues that the Rainbow Loom is more than a toy — it's hope for gender equality.
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“I think it’s a complete overreaction on the part of the administration,” says one P.S. 87 mom who asked to remain anonymous. Rainbow bracelets are an inexpensive and creative source of pride for the students who also use the trend to build community as they collaborate on pretty intricate designs, she says.
At the same time, other parents applaud the schools for taking action. They believe that the rainbow looms were disruptive to the classroom environment and created a divide between those who have the looms and those who do not.
Assistant Principal, Suzan Federici, notified P.S. 87 parents on Oct. 15 that the Rainbow Loom bracelets and bracelet-making kits were starting to “get out of hand.” According to Federici’s letter, the bracelets were causing conflict among students during recess and children were no longer allowed to bring any bracelets or bracelet kits to school.
Eve Litwack, principal of Park Slope P.S. 107, declined to comment on the matter, but corrected previous reports that said she called the bracelets, “addictive.” She said she did not.
As reported by DNA Info New York, Litwack said the problem was that some students started showing up for “morning line-up toting Ziploc bags stuffed with thousands of rubber bands and tackle boxes of the bracelet equipment.”
"When a teacher says it's interfering with what she can do in the classroom, it's just not healthy," Litwack said.
“It’s hard enough to control a class of 9-year-olds as it is,” says Gerald Stinner, a Park Slope father who agrees the toy should be banned. Stinner says his fourth-grade daughter is “kind of obsessed with the rainbow bracelets” and thinks it’s something she can do on her own time at home.
Rebecca Hughes Parker, a parent of twin fourth-grade girls who attend P.S. 87, defends her school’s bracelet ban as well. There are a thousand kids in the school and parents have to trust the people who are there with the students every day to make the best determination for the community as a whole, Parker says.
It doesn’t appear that many other cities are taking New York’s lead yet.
Karen Benjamin Guzzo, a Monclova, Ohio, parent, recalls how her daughter’s Allentown, Pa., school did participate in a multi-state ban on Silly Bandz bracelets in 2010. “As far as I know, the (Rainbow) bracelets aren’t banned in our schools at the moment,” says Guzzo. “But I don’t think most teachers permit the student to bring the loom and a gazillion bracelets into class, although they can wear them.”
“I think it’s nice when they have indoor recess on rainy days and people bring in the bands and looms,” says Angela Rella, a Saratoga Springs, N.Y. mother of a third-grade girl and a kindergarten-aged boy, who both love the toy.
While Rella says there is no ban on bracelets, on Friday her daughter Lucia came home with a message from her teacher. Kids are now only allowed to wear one bracelet to school. In an email to TODAY Moms, Rella explained why the new rule was in place: "The boys were wearing them all the way up to the elbow and [the teacher] was worried it would cut off circulation."
Jacoba Urist is a business, health and lifestyle reporter in New York City. Follow her on Twitter@JacobaUrist.