Growing up going to public school you always have something that is “in” that every kid has to have. There have been many things that become popular and then phase out of existence. Sometimes the action of having a teacher take away a precious item burns us so that we never forget. We become more secretive and then begin to covet our toys or games or whatever the case may be. I discovered, or more likely realized that there are really only 4 reasons that something is banned or taken away. Here are some of the reasons why along with some of the most popular bans from childhood. I surveyed the Nerdbot writers as well as some readers and this is what I came up with.
7) Spaghetti Straps
When I was growing up it was the 90’s/ early 00’s and spaghetti straps were just becoming a thing. Partly in thanks to Sarah Michelle Geller of Buffy who made these looks super popular. Spaghetti Straps, chunky highlights and platform shoes were the entirety of seventh and eighth grade. This is one of the ones that parents were even upset about, especially in summer when their daughters could potentially overheat. This one is still in effect today with a tank strap needing to be 2 3/4 inches wide, or wide enough to cover a bra strap. You know so the boys don’t get distracted…
6) JNCO Jeans
At the height of the Rave scene this brand was everywhere. I remember when you could walk into a Hot Topic and there would be System of a Down glow in the dark Tees of the Kombucha Mushroom People and JNCO’s in every style you could imagine. As far as the styles go there would have been some with reflective tape, more bondage looking ones or just plain jeans. I can still hear the sound of my JNCO’s sloshing because the soaked up the water from the rain fall the night before on the walk to school. After I left high school and did alternative school, because yeah I ditched and it made people worried for my future, they were banned from Orange County school districts. Especially because baggie clothing made people nervous after the whole Columbine thing. Kids were outraged at the ban claiming self expression but as an adult now I can see why they did it. It’s all a matter of perspective.
5) White Shirts and Colored Shoelaces
It seems no matter what district you live in there is always a fear of gang affiliation and in turn representation. I remember when I started high school I wanted to wear my orange striped ADIDAS with red shoe laces. I learned the first day that I wore those that it was considered a white supremacy thing. I had no idea, I was just mad because I bought those because it looked cool. It was ok though because I ended up buying skull and crossbones laces instead. White shirts were another thing that got banned because of the potential gang affiliation thing. I guess they were afraid of the kids wanting to look like “thugs” from the music videos because kids like to imitate what they see on tv.
4) Slap Bracelets
Technically this is a toy but it also constitutes fashion so its going in this part of the list. The funny thing with this being banned is that it was initially designed by a teacher! Wisconsin teacher Stuart Anders designed and sold these in the 80’s and while they were deemed a fad they never went away. People were worried that the kids would slap it too hard and injure themselves.
3) Jelly Bracelets
These were popular while I was in school but it was mostly because Gwen Stefani wore them and I was way into No Doubt. After I graduated I remember hearing on the news that schools were banning them because kids had decided that the different colors meant that you would perform or had performed different sexual acts.
2) Gel Pens
In middle school these were literally everywhere. They were banned because kids wouldn’t just write on their papers with them but also on any part of their body where skin showed. Face, Arms, sometimes breasts would be drawn on with words or art. While I preferred to just draw anime on people a lot of other students would make more lewd illustrations(dicks basically) and got the attention of the faculty.
So I’m dating myself here. Pagers(sometimes called a beeper) were banned because they were not only distracting but also for dealing drugs. Or so they thought, and you know what they weren’t wrong. The trick was to keep it on vibrate and use the pay phone between classes and not “be a bust” about it. It kind of hurt my feelings a little it was so hard to find a good picture for this because I guess they were advertised before internet marketing was a thing.
Gum was banned for being a complete nuisance. While it was great to keep the antsy kids quiet during class it was also a mess. Sticking it on the bottom of your desk was seen as a “rebel” thing to do, along with the loud popping of bubbles. Plus there was always a risk someone would think it was funny to put it in your hair.
2) Candy Cigarettes
This was another thing that schools banned because they were worried that it would promote the use of drugs. Or rather make smoking look cool. You could blow through the stick and make it look like smoke was coming out before you chewed it up into gum. Since D.A.R.E. and the anti tobacco ads were strong it’s no wonder these were abolished. Though you could still buy them from the ice cream man and enjoy(?) them in your own home. I say enjoy with a question mark because I don’t remember them tasting good, at all.
Warheads were banned in school’s after kids started challenging each other to see how many you could eat at one time. The sour on the candy was not gentle and would essentially burn your taste buds. Kids wouldn’t stop trying to one up each other and this caused major issues causing damage to their tongues. Oh, and if you image search that, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
1) Raven’s Revenge
This candy would turn your whole mouth black! This was one of the candies that schools banned due to the candy coming in a vial container. The thinking behind this one is that it would promote wanting to use drugs. Probably because LSD was known to come in a vial as well other drugs such as cocaine. This candy was totally awesome though and you know what the best part is? In 2012 it came back! Still banned in schools I’m sure but you can now buy it on Amazon so FU school, I’m eating it at home.
POGS were everywhere in the 90’s. You could get them from Del Taco, Knott’s had a whole attraction based on them and there were themed POGS for every show or movie you can think of. The picture above is from my own collection, what has survived the years. The reason for this one becoming a problem in school was mainly because of the game play. You stacked them up and used a “slammer” to get the POGS in the stack to land face up. whatever lands face up you got to keep. I was never very good at the game but did like to collect them and I know a few kids who would be really upset that they lost one of their favorites. The trick was to take only the ones you didn’t like to school but kids were proud and wanted to show off their good ones.
1) Cards, Cards, and More Cards
Playing cards depended on the school. Sure you could gamble with them potentially but if you just wanted to play gin rummy with your friends at recess in the shade that was OK. As long as you weren’t outright gambling. This is still mentioned on lists of things to leave at home though.
I still have some loose ones in the attic but I didn’t feel like digging them out Pokemon cards were a huge hit among the kids in school. Like I said in my article about trading cards everyone had at least one. Kids would trade, play and win or just give them to a friend. The problem with them giving them away was that some of the kids would give away a high value card and then the parents would freak out. Or in the case I witnessed the most kids would play to win and then lose a precious card and freak out and tell their mom.
One of my friends let me in on this on and it is still banned today though I wonder if it is for the same reasons. The game play is one where winning a card isn’t really a rule of thumb but if you want to gamble or set up a game where there are stakes it’s not unheard of. The reason my friend gave me for the banning of this game wasn’t that it was for gambling but because schools were worried that it was “Satanic”. Which honestly if I heard that it was banned for being Satanic would have totally gotten me into it.
Toys (Distraction/Potential Injury)
In 2003 a parent was hit in the eye by a Beyblade. While it seems funny to someone it hasn’t happened to I am sure that it hurt like hell. I just get flashbacks to when that freaking sky-dancer bruised me in the face. Hard plastic objects that you fling with a plastic ring sounds all around like a big hurt waiting to happen.
Slime was banned in 2017 because kids would play with it in class and it would become a huge distraction. Also depending on how it was made it could potentially make a mess or stain the wood of the school desks. Students were having a hard time focusing because they were just playing with slime all the time. I do seem to remember GAK being frowned upon when I went to school but it was never outright banned.
4) Fidget Spinners
Same concept, distracting. Students were becoming obsessed with these things as many kids do when there is a cool new thing. The only real connection to these that I have is that my three year old would watch people play with them on YouTube so I don’t have a whole lot of knowledge as to why they are so special.
3) Tech Decks
Tech Decks I can tell you a little more about and in my mind I relate them to the fidget spinner. These were all the craze in seventh grade til they got banned. To clarify seventh grade for me was 1998. They made all kinds of accessories for these teeny tiny skateboards and they were super popular among the skater crowd. Because if you couldn’t actually be skating, you could show that you were thinking about landing your next trick by fingering(uh huh huh) these sweet boards.
In elementary school, sixth grade 1997, these things hit the kids like I never saw before. This was the first ever digital pet that you could take care of. Play games and raise it’s happiness. Flush its hershey kiss shaped poop away and keep it feeling loved. These things were hot. My Nana, rest her soul, stood in line for hours getting one of these for my brother and I when they launched. Somehow she was always in the know if something was in. Anyway, these little egg babies were such an annoyance in school that they banned them. They beeped when they needed attention like if they pooped or were getting hungry or sad, and me and most of the others in my class, intellectuals, didn’t realize that they had a silent option. So that meant when they were banned my mom got to take care of them because we would throw them in her purse before school.
1) Gameboys/Gaming Watches
Going along with the Pokemon craze every kid I hung out with toted along a gameboy so that they could catch and play Pokemon red or blue between classes. Games are not new to being banned, especially electronic games like those cool watches you could get with Zelda or Dick Tracy programmed into them. But gameboys were everywhere and were becoming a big problem for teachers, as well as parents. I remember being scolded because I played the game while eating dinner, because I am an addict when it comes to a good game. A lot of other kids had the same problem playing it during class and for that reason teachers began confiscating them left and right with the only way to get them back was with a parents note and on a Friday.
I know this is long and I probably left out a bunch of stuff but these are the main things I remember from growing up. I want to know what you have to say. Did any of these things affect you? Did you get anything taken away from you that you loved? Did you have bans on anything in your school that I didn’t cover?
Tell NerdBot in the comments and get the discussion rolling!
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