And Now — A School is Banning Chapstick!

Readers — I gotta go cook a turkey, but meantime, look at this. The REASON this Cleveland elementary school is making Chapstick contraband is that kids might SHARE it:

Parents were afraid that children would share the Chapstick and spread germs,” [schools spokeswoman] Sessoms said. “By requiring written permission from the parents, parents would be aware that their children had Chapstick and would be able to remind them not to share it with other children. This would also be a way for teachers to be aware so that they could deter students from sharing it with others.”

For this same reason they have banned hand sanitizer and sunscreen.

Come to think of it, maybe I should cancel my Thanksgiving dinner. The guests might end up passing the food! That’s sharing, right? And what if, God forbid, someone accidentally picks up someone else’s glass and sips from it? Think of the danger!

It’s just not worth it. This whole “community” thing has got to go! This school is on the right track: For safety’s sake, no human contact from now on. — L.

122 Responses

  1. Do they still allow combs? Kids share those all the time and spread head lice.

  2. Just to clarify… I don’t think they should ban combs… parents just need to remind their kids that they shouldn’t share *everything*…. kwim?

  3. *facepalm*

  4. Every time I hear/read something like this, I am reminded of the movie Demolition Man, in which Sandra Bullock and Sylvester Stallone have “sex”, but there’s NO TOUCHING, because that would “gross”, and unsanitary.

  5. It’s so much easier to just ban everything then to teach your kids “Hey, don’t share this Chapstick. The other kid might have a cold sore.” or “Better keep your hairbrush to yourself, even clean kids can have lice.”

    And I’m the lazy parent because I’m not attatched to my kids at the hip?!?

    So much easier to stalk your kids than talk to them, I guess.

  6. Every time I visit this site I’m more grateful for my kids’ school. Just yesterday my 4 yo’s teacher told me to give my boy some lip balm or something, because it’s chilly in the playground and his lips were sore.
    She was so concerned, she shared her own lip balm with all the kids.
    I’d warn her about the germs, but I’ve got a feeling I would be laughed at by anyone who overheard 😀
    (Really, if people are so concerned about kids spreading germs, they should ban children altogether)

  7. This makes me think of Napoleon Dynamite.

    “Just borrow some from the school nurse. I know she has like five sticks in her drawer.”

    “I’m not gonna use hers, you sicko!”

  8. BAN HAND-SANITIZER ?? You gotta be kidding me !

    My son has his own soap for school but that’s cause he has sensitive skin. In his backpack he has lip balm and hand sanitizer.

    Don’t they know exchanged germs build up antibodies ? LOL!

  9. I’m no expert, but aren’t most viruses airborne anyway?

  10. @ Shelly: No, sharing lip balm would be a great way to spread germs. A better way to prevent sharing might be (gasp!) letting everyone have their own!

    @ Anna: I actually am allergic to hand sanitizer. Because I can’t use it, I thoroughly approve of everyone else using it, so there are fewer germs for me to touch! If it were my child allergic to it, I’d simply make sure the teacher knew, and make sure the child understood the allergy as early as possible.

  11. @Shelly No. Viruses spread by contact. They need host cells to survive.

    While I generally agree with most of the free range principles, I have to disagree with this one.

    For me there is a line between personal safety and disease and if a school is willing to take steps to prevent communicable disease, more power to them.

    I wish that they would change the school year so that the large break would be during flu season.

    I suspect I would feel differently if I weren’t on my 3rd round of colds/bronchitis of the year since my kids started back to school.

    And while the CDC still recommends hand sanitizers, there are dozens of studies going on right now that are questioning their effectiveness. I’m still waiting to see some final results, but I think people need to get back to the whole hand-washing mentality.

  12. Hang on… hand sanatizer? I don’t particularly approve of constantly using hand sanatizer but I’m confused… They think sharing it will… SPREAD germs?

  13. LOL! Another bunch of yahoos. Much like the “pencil ban”, if this is to prevent the “spreading of germs”, then it shouldn’t be just limited to Chapstick. Door handles, lockers, tables, chairs, papers, books, even playtime and dealing with the teachers. EVERYTHING has to be avoided. Hell, they probably should just tell the kids to stay at home and live in a plastic bubble. Because THAT is the only way you can prevent germs from spreading. And really, at that age, germs ARE good. It helps the body build immunity to them. But if you never get exposed, and your immune system never learns to fight them, when you do catch something it will be much worse. Wow, for a bunch of educators, they are pretty dumb.

  14. How long do you think it would take to compile a list of a 1000 things that could be banned because they spread germs? Door knobs, toys, pencils (already banned, perhaps BECAUSE they are chemical weapons?)
    library books, soda, food, holding hands on field trips.

    If you are on your 3rd round of colds, then you are doing well. The average number of colds in school kids is 7 per year. Furthermore, there is no measurable increase in the health of the school by keeping mildly ill kids (and their chapstick) home. Mildy ill is defined as no fever. So even if those kids who have colds go to school, or dont go to school, share their chapstick, or make your kids suffer chapped lips, you would still be on round 3 of colds.

  15. P.S. Maybe the health board and teachers should be banned…for fear of spreading stupidity. That is WORSE than germs.

  16. @EricS
    You’re a faster typist; you beat me to the punch line. But…a plastic bubble? Really? Don’t kids choke on plastic ALL THE TIME?

  17. @Jules I now want to create a bumper sticker:

    Raise your kids right – Talk don’t Stalk

    @Lenore – love the site. I’m in a low level battle over how free range our children will be. I was _very_. To the level when I got left behind at a gas station about 1 mile from home. I walked home and my parents didn’t panic.

  18. I think chapstick/lip balm is a personal item and shouldn’t be shared without good forethought. However, I equip my kids with lip balms and I don’t tell them not to share. I’m just not that much of a germophobe. If someone feels squeamish about using someone else’s lip balm, then don’t use it. If you need it, then use it. It’s a tool, not a weapon.

    Living in fear of EVERYTHING is keeping us from living AT ALL.

  19. Wow, thanks for the reminder to get my son some chapstick for school after break. It’s getting cold here. Simple enough to tell a kid to not share.

  20. I’m thinking the administrator who came up with this rule is still experiencing trauma from the time the mean girls teased her in middle school for having the wrong kind of Bonnie Bell Lip Smacker . . .

  21. Our nurse hands out blistex and tells the kids to bring their own. I’ve banned using hand sanitizer in my classroom because the stench was giving one kid a sinus headache and making me throw up. (they would pass it around and 13 – 16 out of 26 kids using it put out a mighty stench).

    They can use it when leaving the bathroom and use only a little bit – they shouldn’t reek of it when they get back. I have the same rule about perfumes and other smelly stuff.

  22. this is parents abdicating their parenting to the schools. and schools (being organizations, not families) have to put it in “the rules” instead of simply making an announcement (don’t share personal items)
    do the poor teachers tasked with parenting 30 odd kids per day have any time to actually teach them? don’t we send our kids to school to be educated, not parented?

  23. Well, I don’t feel too bad about chapsticks going. In my opinion it’s make-up which probably is already banned by the school anyway. But banning sanitizer which is supposed to kill germs is just plain madness.

  24. I’m beginning to think the real turkeys are the ones running the schools, not the frozen birds for sale at the local grocery story.

    Still, it’s Thanksgiving Day, and you know what I’m thankful for? I’m thankful for Lenore Skenazy, how she is willing to practically be the face of common-sense parenting free of neurotic fear despite the attention to herself that it brings (to wit: if something, God forbid, bad happens in her own home, the cries will ring out “See! I told you she was a freak!! She deserves it!) but she still stands up for such silliness and speaks out as a voice of reason.

    I’m thankful for her book publisher for agreeing to publish her book and help spread the word.

    And I’m thankful that there are others, not just me, who don’t subscribe to the whole helicopter-thing and that know better themselves.

    I will really be thankful if, somehow, public awareness such as this site will have the effect of not just letting us know when such nonsense as banning Chapstick is happening, but even empower us to protest it enough to turn the tide.

    Enjoy your turkey, Lenore–and just remember, those of us here who contribute, we know who the real turkeys are out there, and you most certainly aren’t one of them. They’re the ones coming up with this nonsense that you rightfully speak out against.


  25. Kimelah, I was thinking the same kind of thing!

    Just as an aside, Lenore, I was reading an article on overprotective parenting by Katie Roiphe (on Slate) this morning, and it mentioned your book as one of many that further clingy parenting. We all know your book and website espouse the complete opposite. Just wanted you to know in case you wanted to clarify that. You’re probably too busy cooking that turkey and have better things to do, though. 🙂

  26. NO SHARING!!!

  27. The reasoning is stupid, but really, kids don’t need lip balm in school. I remember when “lip gloss” was the big thing when I was in upper elementary, and certain girls would just sit there all day and apply and reapply it; and that’s what made you socially acceptable if you were a girl. It’s distracting, frivolous, etc. I also hear it’s habit-forming, though I really don’t know about that.

    I really wish parents would just send their kids to school with a good breakfast and the tools they need to study and learn. All this hand sanitizer, water bottles, sunscreen, lip balm, etc., etc. – totally unnecessary and bound to complicate what should be simple. Less is more.

  28. @Jack Wire: lol. That’s true too. Especially if the parents have helicoptered them so much they don’t know how to actually interact with people. Maybe people should really just stop having kids. Would save them all the mental, emotional, and physical stress, not to mention save some money.

    Had to throw this one in

  29. @anonymousmagic & SKL: you obviously don’t live in a climate as cold and dry as mine! 🙂 I know a lot of people (especially young girls) over-use lip balm, but banning it forthright can lead to some pretty painful cracked lips. This would be akin to banning hand cream where I live, and yes, hand cream is necessary if you don’t want rough, bleeding knuckles!

    But how big of a problem is chapstick sharing anyway? Maybe I was a selfish kid, but there was no way anyone else was getting their hands on my coveted chocolate-marshmallow christmas Lip Smackers!

  30. Due to a traumatic lice episode in fourth grade, I regularly remind my daughter not to share a brush, comb or hat with anyone at school–I don’t ever want to go through that again! I don’t worry about her lip balm, though; in a classroom full of coughing sneezing hacking kids (who then go to lunch and share their food and drink with each other), germs are going to get transmitted no matter what. I guess it could be a problem if someone actually had an active cold sore, but I don’t think those are a big problem among preteen kids.

  31. Wow, and I’m just thankful for my daughter’s school. Yesterday she wouldn’t put on her jacket before leaving the building, so I told her that she should carry her jacket and put it on if she feels too cold. The principal was standing at the door and said, “good for you! We need to trust the kids to take care of their own basic needs. Colds come from viruses anyway, not from being cold!”

  32. Sunscreen? I’d rather someone share sunscreen with my kids than have them get a sunburn, KWIM?

    And how many times have I borrowed my friend’s chapstick, or they borrowed mine?

    How many germs are on the doorknobs, water fountains, and stair rails?


  33. “The reasoning is stupid, but really, kids don’t need lip balm in school. ”

    Besides what spacefall said, schools just shouldn’t be banning anything outright that is not inherently dangerous or seriously distracting, especially if it has a legitimate use. It’s up to parents to teach their kids not to share lip balms if they are concerned, it’s not the school’s business or anyone else’s to decide what “kids [don’t] need” in school, outside those parameters. At every point at which the schools behave as though they’ve forgotten they’re the servants of the families and not the other way around, they need to be opposed on that point.

    It would even be reasonable for schools to have a “no sharing” policy on something like that, but the reflexive action of banning everything that comes down the pike just isn’t helpful.

  34. When I was student teaching 1st graders one of the girls brought sunscreen to school and started sharing it. Sure enough a kid had a reaction. To sunscreen of all things. So needless to say I will forever ban that from my room.

  35. Today my 6y.o. was worried about how he would eat his apple with a wobbly front tooth. My advice: “Ask your friend to take the first bite. An apple is always easier to eat after the first bite has gone. ” Really, whatever germs his buddy has he is going to catch regardless. Kids that age are always breathing over each other, coughing on their hands and then touching stuff etc. and indulging in other unhygienic behavior.

    Same goes for chapstick, if the germs are there, they will probably catch them anyway.

  36. I saw Cleveland and assumed it was a county north of me here in Ohio, but then looked and saw it was Cleveland, North Carolina. It’s good to see the crazy news be about another Cleveland.

  37. What gets me is the idea that they want teachers to discourage sharing. Wasn’t that one of the main teacher points we got in elementary school?

  38. @ Pentamom – Here, here! Whatever happened to actually allowing parents to decide what was needed by their child in school? Putting on chapstick will rarely bother the entire class to the extent that it needs to be banned. If a particular child or group of children is so distracted by their chapstick THOSE children, and only those children, should be banned from bringing chapstick to class. This mentality in society where if one person can’t handle the responsibility of chapstick than nobody can have it really bugs me.

  39. @Meaghan
    I’d be surprised if you didn’t have this idiotic product State-side that has just started to be advertised here (Oz), a product that stops the spread of all the myriads of virulently death-dealing pathogens that lurk on hand soap dispensers. Instead of – Heaven help us – touching the soap dispenser you wave your hand under it and it squirts soap on you.

    I can just imagine the product developers’ meeting where they thought up a way to make hand soap even more expensive and convince the consumer to buy it anyway.

  40. Hang on-didn’t the story start by saying “parents were afraid”-not that the school came up with the idea of banning first? In my experience, school administrators and teachers do not have time to sit around dreaming up endless banns on things-but as soon as a parent or small group of parents complains about these things, they feel they have to “cave in” or there will be larger problems-even so far as a lawsuit or some action in that regard. If we could get back to worrying about curriculum, quality of instruction, and passing on knowledge to our kids schools will be a lot better. Right now we are either forced into being parents when we don’t want to (and a lot of parents don’t want us so-but again-the squeakly wheel and all that) or berated by other parents who are those helicopter types. Believe me-I know. I’ve been a teacher for 16 years at the middle school and high school level. I’ve seen all kinds of things. Please understand-most of us educators would like to be more “free-range”, but we are NOT ALLOWED TO. You would not believe what I have been asked to do by parents (usually regarding late work, giving extra credit, or grades in general), and if I refuse, I know my administrator is going to tell me to cave in. So before we always assume it is the school taking the lead on these ridiculous things, take a second to think that maybe a small but vocal parent or two or three had something to do with it, along with weak administrators.

  41. I read the article. They lost me at, “When teachers find moist-lipped scofflaws, they simply call the children’s parents and inform them of the policy.” No, actually they lost me before that, but I am genuinely and utterly appalled that “we” might imagine this to be good use of a teacher’s time.

  42. I suppose they should just ban schools in general, since that’s where kids get most of their germs anyway.

    So sad.

  43. SKL I have kids in my classroom, who have lips that are chapped to the point of bleeding. They need lip balm. I would rather a kid with allergies and tickle in their throat have a water bottle than constantly be coughing or asking to go get water. Same goes for those on antihistamines.

    I seriously challenge you to tell a teacher in Australia not to have sunscreen. They are pretty strict about requiring it and hats for recess, judging from blogs and conversations I’ve had with teachers. Just like teachers up north require snowsuits or whatever you call them.

  44. I can see why – herpes can be passed from using the lipstick of an infected person…

    Thank goodness there are all sorts of alternatives to “Chapstick” and unless the school writes out the names of every single brand, I know something can get through the ban.

  45. Where I live there’s no Thanksgiving. But I am thankful that our kids can bring to school “dangerous” goods. That their immune system works well, so they don’t need hand sanitizer and are no allergic to soap. And that the climate is so mild they never need either sunscreen or chapstick.
    And by the way, they do have lice occasionally. I always have the appropriate shampoo at home, and get rid of them before they multiply too much.

  46. I banned my kids from chapstick because they shared it and would put it on constantly and would come home after ONE DAY with it down to a nub. So mad when I spend $3- $5 per chapstick, so I said they had to share a vaseline tub!! mean mum me. Not because of germs lol

  47. Larry Harrison, on November 26, 2010 at 02:57 said:
    I’m beginning to think the real turkeys are the ones running the schools, not the frozen birds for sale at the local grocery story.

    Are you kidding, Larry?

    You’ve obviously never had an encounter with a “mad cow diseased” mother. A “pit bull with lipstick”. A “mamma bear with her cub”. A “soccer mom”. A “helicopter parent”.

    In other words, you have never worked in a school district, because you wouldn’t make such an insane remark otherwise.

    Walk a mile in those moccasins before making such a thoughtless remark.

    A Mile walker

  48. When I was in school, if we needed to share chapstick, we’d get a tissue and rub it over the end to take a layer off, use our fingers to apply from the stick, then wipe again. Not sure if it helped keep germs from spreading, but I never once caught cooties, so we must have been doing something right…

    Seriously, just tell kids not to share personal items. I’ll be sending my son to school with chapstick soon- it gets to dry in the school when the furnace is on, and cracked lips hurt.

  49. Are they going to ban lipstick as well? And for teachers too? Living in cold dry New England, we often need chapstick and/or lipstick.

    My daughter gets severely chapped hands in the winter. She has to leave her moisturizer with the nurse. If I send cough drops to school with my kids (Ricola) I’m told they have to take them directly to the school nurse and go to the nurse’s office every time they need one. Ridiculous!

  50. I don’t approve of hand sanitizer. You watch the ads for it on the TV and they push it because “soap might have germs on it”… umm… it is soap! It is for washing your hands! It is much better to use soap than overuse antiseptic. But hey… I don’t even clean my house with chemicals. I’m allergic to a lot of them, and I guess that is my body telling me something for a reason. Yuck. I couldn’t think of anything worse than being perfectly sanitized all the time. Go out in the dirt kids!

  51. Chapstick and other lip balms are habit-forming – not because they’re addictive but because once your lips have been softened by them you need to keep applying them. I figured out pretty quickly that my lips tended to be worse when I used it than when I didn’t, so I steered clear of the stuff.

  52. I met one of my lifelong friends in the fifth grade. One of the first things he remembers about me is borrowing my chapstick at school. He was a bit germophobic (grew up to be a microbiologist!) and didn’t want to pass me his cooties so he used his kiddie scissors to scrape off a bit of chapstick. Of course now we suspect that the scissors were more germy than his lips.

  53. @kmsh I actually agree with this type of ban – Non swimmers should NEVER use floats. Floaties (what we call water wings in the states) should be banned completely. Nonswimmers should wear lifevest or other life saving devices. Their lives should not depend on TOYS.

    I personally have witnessed 4 kids nearly drowning because of those dammed floaties.

    2 – The floaties deflated while the children were in water over their heads being “supervised” by parents gossiping on the pool deck.

    2 – The floaties slipped from the children’s upper arms to their wrist – forcing each child’s head under water. Again the parents were “supervising” while gossiping on the pool deck.

    1 time the child was pulled out by a life guard
    3 times the child was pulled out by an older child who then was yelled at by the “adults who were supervising”. 1 time I was that child. The other 2 times I was an adult who saw what happened but the older child was closer and got to the child in distress 1st. Those two times I ripped the parents and lifeguards all new ones.

    Again Non swimmers should either stay in the very very shallow water or they should wear Coast Guard Approved Lifesaving Devices. (Lessons of course are a different matter)

  54. @SgtMom As a matter of fact, what you are saying doesn’t surprise me. I don’t doubt for a minute that there are “mad cow” parents meddling in such school matters.

    That said, I STILL stand-by the school administrators as being “turkeys,” because they cave into this sort of thing, rather than standing pat.

    Besides, my statement “the ones running the school system”–if said parents are behaving as you say they are, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they are, then in effect they (not the school administrators) are the ones running the school system, so by definition they themselves would also be “turkeys” as well.

    It’s not a thoughtless remark, and I reject the characterization of it as such, and I do not apologize to anyone for what I said.


  55. It kind of reminds me of talking to my husband’s American cousin who was shocked that we let out cat outside – ‘Won’t she get ill?’

    To which I replied ‘Well, children might get ill if they go outside, but we let them go’

    But maybe not anymore…

    I get the impression that indoor cats are, if not the norm, then certainly quite common in the US (they’re a rarity here in the UK). With apologies to any US indoor cat owners whose kitties are fine, thank you very much, in my experience, indoor cats I’ve met have been rather unhappy seeming creatures and usually overweight.

    Perhaps just a teensy, weensy bit like kids who are never allowed out?

  56. This is dumb! I used chapstick all through school and it wasn’t an issue. We all shared! To the person who said chapstick is essentially make-up and therefore a distraction – if it’s being reapplied obsessively then it should be taken away until the end of the class. That doesn’t mean that kids who actually have sensitive skin (my son) shouldn’t be able to apply something to make themselves feel better. Having raw, chapped lips is more distracting than applying chapstick a few times a day.
    As far as hand sanitizer and those other items, I don’t understand how things you pour into your hand and then rub on yourself would spread germs. I personally don’t agree with the use of either of them but it’s stupid to ban them for THAT reason.

  57. @Claudia Conway: Unfortunately because there are so few outdoor cats in my area, the ones that do roam are automatically seen as strays and either taken to the SPCA (good-ish) or taken by some psychopath (less good, and I’m not just being melodramatic, there have regularly been outdoor cats found horribly mutilated in my area.) It does make an interesting parallel to free-range, though, in that it’s very hard to change and probably is detrimental to the cats (one good thing is that feline free-play isn’t really affected by supervision, so you can always let them into the back yard at least.)

  58. Its so gratifying to know that our schools are busily creating ‘chapstick policies’ and responding to the dangerous germ threat caused by sharing lip balm.
    Talk about bureaucracy run amok. Is there any aspect at all of children’s lives that the schools can not dictate?

  59. Wow, crazy.

    I *wish* I could get my kid to take chapstick to school in the winter. She hates putting anything on her lips (or the rest of her face) and her lips are always chapped and/or bitten and/or bleeding as a result. And guess what, she and her friends still get colds all the time anyway (though we have escapedlice thus far, B”H).

    I mean, if you don’t want kids to share chapstick, isn’t making it contraband the *worst* thing you could possibly do?

  60. Where I live it is very cold and dry in the winter. My boys and I have chapped lips all winter. Chap Stick is not make up, it is a necessity!

  61. @ North of 49. You think like me! If they ban a namebrand I am sure that I will be able to find another brand that does the same thing.

    Infact on my desk right now I have a little tub of “lip conditioner” that is NOT chapstick, or a lip moisturizing stick or any other brand/generic description that could be applied to a non-coloring-lip-chap-reducing-stick (or whatever they are going to call them, lol)

  62. @kmsh: LOL! They’ve got to be kidding. Devices that prevent someone from drowning (child or adult) are banned because they are unsafe?! So what happens if some does drown, and they had a stack of floating devices that they didn’t want to give out. That’s still a lawsuit waiting to happen. And the chances of someone drowning is far, far greater than another child choking on the device. There is no logic. Not that I want someone to drown, but I hope they do get sued to make them realize their ignorance.

    @Jackie: but that’s the thing, it’s because of parents that like to sue at the drop of a hat, that has forced institutions to cover their asses. I’m sure many of them do not agree with new illogical policies, but it’s the only way they can keep themselves from getting hit with a lawsuit. BUT, it doesn’t mean they should be caving in so easily. Because of this reason, those frivolous, opportunistic parents sense that as weakness and therefore more inclined to make more demands. That’s just human psychology. There is nothing wrong with fighting for the rights of the students, and if in the end they are vetoed, and the dumb policies pass, they can at least hold their heads high and say “we tried our best to keep that from happening”. Not just laying down and allowing themselves to get walked all over. They need to be the voice of logic in their school.

    @kherbert: lol. sounds to me the problem isn’t with the floatation devices, but the parents who weren’t paying attention to their kids. It’s one thing letting them off on their own in a park with the parents at bench close by gabbing away. But in pool, and the children aren’t experienced swimmers yet. As free-range as I am, I’d still be keeping an eye on the sidelines. Not gossiping away. THAT is negligence. By the way I’ve seen plenty of children using those devices in the deep end of the pool (with the parents watching at the sidelines), and not once have I seen any of what you described. Not saying it doesn’t or won’t happen. But not likely. And again, in water, parents HAVE to be paying attention, especially if their kids are just learning how to swim.

  63. When I was coaching high school athletes, I had one 18 year old senior who was a seasoned athlete. He knew his body better than most adults did. And he had an ongoing shoulder issue. Under heavy use, his shoulder muscles would get inflamed, but with the help of his mother, he had learned how to use ibuprofen appropriately to catch it in the bud. So, when he traveled the ENTIRE U.S. as a club athlete, he was able to take care of himself. Travel with his school team? Nope! As his coach, I had to have a note from his mother saying it was ok for him to HAVE the over-the-counter medication, and I had to administer it myself. SIGH….

  64. Sigh…this kind of thing is SO ridiculous. Just another casualty of our litigious society.

  65. @ EricS – My daughter’s water wings have both deflated and fallen off in the past. I was standing right by her so it wasn’t an issue but it could have been. Our university pool – in a free range town (compared to what I read here) – also bans any inflatable flotation devices due to safety concerns. I think an additional concern is the space that they take up in the pool – not water wings but the little boats, inner tubes, etc. They do, however, provide life vests for anyone who wants one and there are ample noodles for floating. Though people frequently bring inflatable things the first time they come and are told that they can’t use them, nobody complains since an alternative is provided for them.

  66. Perhaps the children should be taught how to swim…

  67. @EricS The problem with floaties is that they slip off the upper arms past the elbows frequently. When they do, they force the child’s head under the water. Also the don’t allow a child to do a stroke correctly. I’ve also seen adults send kids into the surf with floaties on. A vest lets the kids swim a little more naturally. Though they need to practice without the vest with an adult in arms reach.

    Also the households in my family tend to spend a good deal of time in and on open water. So our kids know that a lifevest like a seat belt is a non-negotiable period end of subject.

    I’m a strong swimmer. My Maternal family is from an island, and many of my ancestors were fisherman. Respect for water was drilled into my head from day one. Still I’ve nearly drowned twice and had another near call.

    1) I got knocked down by a wave slamming my head into a sandbar stunning me. Dad was right next to me and pulled me up.

    2) At a water park. A boy mistook me for his sister and jerked my tube out from under me. I slipped under 2 other patrons and their tubes. The men panicked. Tried to stand up, slipped and fell back. A life guard jumped into the ride and pulled them off me and me up. I was literally milimeters from the surface but couldn’t reach the surface.

    3) Scary but not near drowning. I didn’t want to stop swimming to eat, because I knew I would have to sit out for 1/2 an hour. I as in the middle of the river, when I got severe cramps from hunger. I did the dead man’s float til I got to the edge of the dock. One of my older cousins realized I was in actual pain, not just trying to see how far I could float. He pulled me out, because I couldn’t climb the ladder.

    The thought of children feeling the terror I felt in #1 and 2 because their parents think a toy is a life saving device just makes me mad at the maker and the people who sell them.

  68. For those who insist that kids “need” lip balm in cold climates, I grew up in the “snow belt” (and played outside a lot). I never carried lip balm, and I still have lips. If my kid (still in a wintry climate) has chapped lips, I put a little vaseline on them and they heal and stay healthy for a while. I also teach them not to wet their lips while outside in the cold. Not that hard, is it?

    How did the human race survive in cold climates before Chapstick?

    By the way, if this school is in North Carolina, they definitely don’t “need” lip balm.

    I don’t consider it necessarily a free-range issue to limit what kids are allowed to possess in the classroom. I think it’s a legitimate way to maintain focus on studying. I mean, yeah, if we want to be really free-range, we could let the kids decide on whether they want to go to school or not, but I still think there is some value in having certain things required – and that includes respect for teachers and focus on schoolwork.

  69. I have two comments:
    1.) Banning in chap stick…REALLY?

    2.) To those discussing the arm floats or any other floatation used at swimming pools. I have been a lifeguard and swim instructor for half my life now and those things scare the heck out of me.
    I myself nearly drowned as a child because a let go of a float.

    I have watched many parents who would normally be very attentive become complacent because their children have floats on and there is a lifeguard on duty. They also are a concern with an adult swimmer who is not confident. I understand that it may be embarrassing but it is a matter of your safety and that of other swimmers. The best thing any non-swimmer can do is get lessons.

    Lifeguards are not babysitters, they are there to ensure everyone’s safety. When there is a young child in a pool I always turned most of my attention to them when a parent was gossiping. This in turn made everyone else swimming less safe.

    Floats do not teach children how to swim, they teach children that they have no boundaries in a very dangerous situation. Your children can only be as free-range as their physical and mental abilities allow. If they are unable to swim then they should not be floating in the deep end of the pool with floats that often fail or could be let go of.

    My own two-year old daughter cannot swim yet, but is very independent. When we swim and she tries/asks to leave me I let go of her for a second or two so she realizes that she can’t swim yet. One day she’ll surprise me and swim away, but you can bet she won’t be attached to a float.

  70. @SKL, though I can’t comment on North Carolina’s lip balm need (and you could well be right in that case), I would hasten to point out that there is a lot of difference between a cold humid place (as google tells me the “snow belt” would qualify) and a cold dry place. I now live on vancouver island (quite humid) for school, and almost the second I arrive home (Edmonton) in winter the moisture is sucked out of my lips and hands. Even if it feels just as cold there as here. Even if there is less snow. (Heck, even when I come home for the summer, sometimes). (Also, I don’t know anybody over the age of 12 who is stupid enough to lick their lips when outside, not in our climate.)

    I don’t doubt that it’s possible to survive crap weather without modern technologies. It’s also possible to survive in cold countries without heating, and hot countries without sunscreen or bug spray*. But it’s not nearly as pleasant, and I don’t see why we can’t just teach children to use lip balm “responsibly” and let them *not* suffer. It’s much less a distraction to pull out a tube of blistex once in a while than it is to spend the entire class thinking about how much your lips are burning (she says from experience).

    *I know some people have a problem with chemically bug spray, but I’m thinking of countries with high rates of malaria, here.

  71. Well, Spacefall, in such a climate, the logical solution is to put the stuff on just before going outside. Since surely the kids put on coats before going outside in such cold weather, the Chapstick could be kept in a coat pocket. It does not need to be used at one’s desk. And I would support a teacher who confiscated it if it were at the desk after a fair warning. Sorry, I’m old-fashioned that way.

    Not sure how things are in Vancouver, but down here, we throw a lot of good money after bad when it comes to education. The amount of actual knowledge most kids come out with after 13 years of it is depressing. Sometimes it seems we do everything but teach/learn in the classroom. (No offense to teachers; I know this isn’t always true and when it is, a lot of it isn’t up to the teachers.)

  72. Since surely the kids put on coats before going outside in such cold weather, the Chapstick could be kept in a coat pocket.

    You haven’t met my older niece, she of the very dry skin. We send her to school with lip balm and she’s expected to put it on during the day, otherwise her lips chap and peel. Not just when she’s outside, either – it gets DRY when the radiators are running! (And we’re in NYC, where usually the problem is humidity. I can only imagine that it’d be worse in a dry climate.)

    So long as it’s not disruptive, there’s no call for teachers to confiscate ANYthing the students have at their desk. One student putting on lip balm – or even all the students putting on lip balm – should not be a concern to the teacher unless s/he is actually incapable of teaching.

  73. Maybe I have a different idea of how much chapping and drying is acceptable. Humans are designed to take a fair amount of it. At some point, concern about being in perfect physical shape takes away from being carefree and pursuing new challenges.

    By the way, I have observed that overuse of lip balm can actually lead to more chapping / cracking than non-use of it. Maybe a child’s lips aren’t supposed to be soft and moist when she goes out to play in the cold. Hmm. (Last winter I had to stop my kids from toting around the Chapsticks an auntie gave them, for that reason.)

  74. SKL, you don’t know my niece. After trial and error we’ve mostly been using natural lip balms and occasionally coconut oil. Without this – and yes, several times a day! – her lips crack and bleed. They’re never really “soft and moist” during the winter, but there’s no need for them to be bleeding all the time. In extreme cases, she’s even gotten a rash *under* the lip, because once they start bleeding she starts licking her lips, and that doesn’t work as well as she thinks.

    At any rate, SKL, I stand by my statement. Whether or not YOU think it is necessary, unless it is an actual disruptive element in the classroom, there is no need for the teacher to remove it. Putting on lip balm does not prevent a child from attending to the lesson, nor does it force other children to stop listening to the teacher.

    My memories of childhood indicate that the better teachers didn’t get caught up in petty moments of “I AM IN CHARGE” but only worried about actual problems.

  75. Trying to concentrate with painful, cracked, dry lips is much more disruptive to that particular student, than banning the use altogether. Just as some people need to use conditioner on their hair and others don’t, some people need to use lip balms, and some don’t! Personally, I need them when it gets dry and cold (living in Oregon, we’re usually wet enough, but when the temps drop and the furnaces come on, and the cold dry wind comes in, I use the humidifier and lip balms!), and I sunburn my lips easily and so wear sunscreened ones in the summer or when I’m outside a lot. I’m not going to suffer from sunburn-related cold sores because you don’t think I need to use the stuff and nor will my children unless you’re planning on taking care of them.

    Again, lip balm is a personal item. Tell them not to share if you don’t want them to, period.

    I went searching for info on lip balms:

    These links address the aspect of “addiction” as well.

  76. @Uly I agree with you especially this

    My memories of childhood indicate that the better teachers didn’t get caught up in petty moments of “I AM IN CHARGE” but only worried about actual problems.

    As a teacher I agree with this completely.
    To whole board
    About the cough drops – In Texas they are classified as OTC medication and like all other OTC medication by law have to be in the Nurse’s office. Now our Nurse’s office always has either the nurse or an aide with a walkie talkie that can get hold of the nurse ASAP manning it. (when the nurse is at lunch)

    Also kids tend to eat cough drops like candy then throw up if they haven’t been taught to properly use them.

    I do think emergency meds like inhaleors or epi should be kept with the child. For K -2nd by the adults, in 3rd – 5th transition to the kid having them. But by state law I can’t give a kid an epi – it has to be the nurse. I’ve carried an epi pen and before that an older style epi kit for 25 years. Epi pens are easy to use but you have to call 911 immediately.

    I really wish some people on this board would stop acting like schools and teachers make the rules about meds including OTC’s out of whole cloth. Most of these aren’t school rules but state law. Take it up with your elected officals instead of trashing teachers.

  77. @ SKL – How exactly does putting on lip balm stop the focus of school work? I’ve never been a fan of the stuff myself but my kid loves it and can put it on without it distracting her from anything else she is doing. It’s not disruptive in any way. As long as it’s close at hand (as opposed to needing to get up to take it out of a coat pocket), it doesn’t impact the learning of the child putting it on. It doesn’t distract the rest of the kids. It doesn’t stop anyone from hearing what the teacher is saying. Last I checked, you could read while putting it on. You probably only need to stop for a second during test taking to put it on (and my guess at that point it’s being used to take a breather). So I’m just not sure how lip balm could possibly impact the learning environment in any way shape or form.

    As a matter of fact, I think that enforcing a ban on chapstick in the classroom will probably be more distracting and take up more of the teacher’s time than simply allowing kids to put on chapstick at will. The time taken to ask the child to stop, to confiscate the stick, to discuss it with the child, to argue with the parents over how their child needs chapstick (some do actually need it), etc. How about we let teachers actually teach and parents and students police what is on the lips of said students?

  78. Oh, SKL. I live in the next county over from the one in question, and we do “need” lip balm. Yes we do.

  79. I guess I’m the only person on this board who was a pre-teen during the days of the lip gloss fad. But what triggered my reaction was the discussion about kids “sharing” it – indicating that lip balming has become a social event. Maybe that’s just my take on it because of my experience. Believe me, lip gloss got extremely distracting not only to those using it, but to others in the class. Even worse than the frequent combing and feathering that was also going on in class. (And I went to a pretty strict school.) And applying the lip gloss had nothing to do with going outside, either, but rather having perpetually shiny lips. My parents didn’t have money for such frivolities, so I was spared from participating, but I still got plenty distracted by those who were into it.

    And Uly, I don’t think that having rules to reduce distractions necessarily means the teacher is on a power trip. Maybe he/she just wants to improve the experience of those students who actually care to use their class time learning. Maybe some people can concentrate on what the teacher’s saying or what they’re reading with all kinds of unrelated stuff going on around them, but many cannot.

  80. Speaking of free range and distractions, I recall a conversation with my younger brother when he was still in high school. He believed that compulsory educaton should be abolished. His view was that people who don’t want to study should not be taking time and resources from those who do. I didn’t agree with him, but my mind keeps going back to that conversation. How much should a disinterested student be allowed to interfere with the interested ones? And if we insist on letting everyone do his own thing in that kind of group setting, aren’t we telling kids that they needn’t have consideration for those around them? Shouldn’t we be encouraging them to be aware of how their actions may be impacting/distracting those around them?

    Again, maybe this was not a distraction issue at all in Cleveland, North Carolina, but I would still support restrictions if that were the concern.

  81. And Uly, I don’t think that having rules to reduce distractions necessarily means the teacher is on a power trip.

    And I didn’t say they did. However, I think we’ve all had those teachers who made themselves the distraction, screaming at the kids for nothing or very little. And the kids just react badly to it, they act worse to get the teacher’s goat.

    You can’t tell me that you seriously think that the mere existence of lip balm in the classroom removes discipline or distracts the students.

    IF and ONLY IF lip balm is a distraction in the classroom, then it makes sense to limit it *during class time* (not, say, in the five minutes before or after class, that sort of thing) and at the discretion of the teacher, and then to remove the restriction once the distraction goes away. These things go in fads, and a fashion for lip balms is bound to pass in a few weeks into a fashion for something else.

    But we don’t know if the kids really are being disruptive. We don’t know if they really are sharing lip balm, and if they’re doing it during lessons. It reads to me like “some parents” (read: one or two overprotective folks with too much time on their hands) are worried about something that may or may not happen, and that would be more easily dealt with by saying “Hey, honey, don’t share lip balm!” to their individual kid.

    So your argument about “distractions” doesn’t even make sense in the context of this article, because nobody in the article has said that lip balm IS a distraction, or even that the kids WERE sharing, just that they decided to pre-emptively ban lip balm in case some kid did share and their mom or dad got upset.

    And if we insist on letting everyone do his own thing in that kind of group setting, aren’t we telling kids that they needn’t have consideration for those around them?

    If you’re distracted by my putting on lip balm, you are the one with a problem. And if your kid is distracted by another kid putting on lip balm, then, again, you and your kid are the ones with the problem here.

    Shouldn’t we be encouraging them to be aware of how their actions may be impacting/distracting those around them?

    Only if they’re actually being disruptive. Singing in class? Disruptive. Shouting in class, jumping up in class, running in circles in class? Disruptive. Hitting the other students, kicking them, insulting them? Disruptive. Staring at them? Just plain rude – I, for one, make every effort to teach my nieces to mind their own business, something far more useful to keeping them from getting distracted.

    On the subject of high school, I actually agree with your brother… sorta.

    I think education should be compulsory in the lower grades, no doubt. And I think it should be free and readily available in the higher grades.

    But I also think that we need to dramatically consider how much education is REALLY needed to do certain jobs. It’s popular to talk about how “8th graders so-and-so many years ago knew so much more than today”, but if there’s any truth to that at all (we try to teach them more, it seems, which by necessity requires that some things will get a shallower treatment) it’s probably because kids left school sooner back then.

    Do you really need a master’s degree to teach kindergarten? Probably not. Do you honestly need a college diploma to be a proofreader? Probably not. Do you seriously need a high school diploma to be a soldier? Again… probably not. Forcing kids to stay in school for 16+ years to get any sort of decent job is absurd. Insisting that they all get general degrees – you can’t specialize in high school, and even in college you’re expected to take a broad range of introductory courses – is… well, it’s nice for some, but does everybody actually need to be so well-friggin’-rounded? Not everybody really is suited to spend a lot of time and effort studying things they’re not interested in.

    Meanwhile, vocational education is a total non-option. That would be useful for a lot of high-school-aged kids, get a good job right out of high school, but even if they can find that option they may be steered away from it by the well-meaning.

    I’m a fan of education, I am. I think everybody should have the option for a good education, I’m all for free college and easy access to GED programs and more flexible scheduling in college so you can easily get your diploma while working full-time, that sort of thing.

    But let’s be honest here. Over the years, the value of any given diploma has decreased significantly. And it’s not because jobs are so much harder today either. It’s doing a real disservice to those young adults who really, really don’t want to be in school… and also to their classmates who do.

  82. Uly, I brought up the distraction aspect because I think distraction is a big problem in schools today. I think folks are so used to the idea of chilling out in the classroom, they don’t consider the possibility that focus and achievement could be greater in a more conducive environment. We’ve simply gotten too comfortable with mediocrity. That’s actually why, as you say, “the value of any given diploma has decreased significantly.” Sure, if anyone can get one no matter how much he twiddles his thumbs in class, it’s meaningless.

    I don’t accept the idea that school is a daycare center or social club. “Oh well, we have to accommodate the fads, this too shall pass, and another will take its place.” There’s a time and place for grooming and socializing, and during the science lecture isn’t it.

    Do you ever wonder why kids today aren’t learning as much even with hours more homework compared to long-past generations? Hmm, maybe they wouldn’t have to do so much homework to learn the subject matter if they were absorbing it during class time. It’s a quality vs. quantity issue.

  83. And I was going to say, I don’t get why parents feel the need to send their kids to school with a ton of stuff that has nothing to do with school. Is it show and tell day? No? Then all you need to carry is your books, lunch, and homework, unless you have medical needs.

    I guess I am old-fashioned.

  84. That’s actually why, as you say, “the value of any given diploma has decreased significantly.”

    I’m pretty sure, actually, that it’s a way to reduce competition in the labor market, by keeping the workplace largely limited to people over the age of 21 rather than the age of 14. I mean, I’m not going to cry “conspiracy!” about it, but… yeah, actually, lowering the standards is the predictable result of raising the school-leaving age.

    However, unless you can prove that taking care of a physical need is a distraction – and that it’s somehow MORE distracting than having cracked lips – I don’t even see what you’re talking about. I mean, your basic premise makes no sense to me, that this one activity is so very distracting.

    There’s a time and place for grooming and socializing, and during the science lecture isn’t it.

    I wasn’t talking about socializing. I was talking about taking 5 seconds out of your day – not even, because this is something you can multi-task while doing – to make sure you are comfortable enough to concentrate on what’s going on.

    I mean, SKL, your argument hinges on the idea that putting on lip balm is inherently disruptive to at least one person in the classroom, and potentially everybody in the classroom. This is absurd.

    Do you ever wonder why kids today aren’t learning as much even with hours more homework compared to long-past generations?

    Actually, yes, and I have a few hypotheses about that. (For starters, I didn’t actually say that students *are* learning less now than they did back then. It may be that fewer students made it to the 8th grade then than they do now, or that it took them longer, or that they retained it less well, or that (and this I do believe) what they studied looks impressive to us but there were plenty of things WE learn that they didn’t.)

    A. We may focus more on breadth than depth. People often talk about how kids back then were learning so much literature and math – but how much science were they learning? How many foreign languages, and to what degree of fluency? Did they all learn art and music and dance in school? How did they learn history? The more you try to teach, the less time you have for each subject. Whether this is good or bad is a matter of endless, endless debate, and I’m not going to get into that.

    B. We may focus more on understanding than on memorization. You can memorize quite a number of useless, useless facts – look at all the people on Jeopardy! But the general trend today is not to memorize, but to understand, and to be able to re-evaluate. This takes more time, and in the end you might have to look up things like the exact date of the Louisiana Purchase… but that doesn’t mean that it’s inferior to the old method. It has a different goal, and comparing the two is futile.

    C. We may be confusing official standards with actual achievement. If you look at a NYS Regents test for any given subject, you’ll say “Wow, they expect these students to know a fair amount!” But not everybody passes their Regents on the first try… or their second. (And for those complaining that Regents are easier nowadays, go ahead and complain. It used to be that kids didn’t have to take the Regents, they could take the RCTs. Then it was that kids had to take one or two Regents and pass with a 55, now they have to take at least 5 and get 65 on all of them. I could’ve told them – and I did say it at the time! – that this would result not in “more rigorous standards” but in easier Regents tests, but nobody thinks about these things.) And those that do pass don’t always get particularly good scores, of course. So it might be that the 8th grade standards were very high back whenever, but that few students really expected to meet them.

    D. They may have done a lot of cramming. You remember that – you study and study and study for a test the night before, and then you don’t worry about it after the fact. Now, my mother and father firmly looked down upon this, and said things like “We don’t care if you pass the test or do well in the class, so long as you know the material.” Consequently, my sister and I tended to fail our classes, but get 90s and 100s on the previously-mentioned Regents exams, but that’s all beside the point. The point is that it’s very easy for a determined student to pass a test in a subject they don’t even remotely understand… by memorizing a lot of facts the night before, and then forgetting it as soon as they can. This can lead to some very impressive-looking results, but they don’t mean anything.

    E. The teachers today don’t spend much time being taught how to teach and, of course, grew up with teachers with the same problem, so may be shaky in the understanding of the subjects at hand.

    F. Our society is more mobile than it was 100 years ago (I think…?), and all this mobility has consequences in education as schools don’t all follow the same curriculum. If you travel too much you might find yourself reading The Giver three times in class, but always leaving before or arriving just after they learn multiplication.

    G. Classes are overcrowded, and grouped in an inefficient one-year, one-class setup – a wider age range (to allow for more flexible subgrouping and for the older ones to help the younger ones) or a smaller one (so that the children are closer developmentally), both of which seem to have been more in use in the past (one-room schoolhouses for the former, dividing grades into 1a and 1b and so on for the latter) might be a better way to educate children. (Or they might not. But smaller class sizes definitely would help.)

    H. Children spend too much time in school and with homework, both in terms of years (starting at 4 or younger) and hours. They need more time for recess and free play because all that schoolwork without any substantial breaks is bad for their developing minds. Additionally, the trend for academic kindergarten and preschools is counterproductive and impairs the learning process later.

    I can’t prove any of these, although I could toss out more if I had to. However, you’ll note that NONE of them are “Children are too easily distracted by lip balm”.

    Unless your assumption is that children are, basically, stupid – so much so that if they reach into their desk for some lip balm because their lips are dry and cracked they immediately lose the focus on the lesson. So much so that if the kid next to them does anything unexpected, they completely lose their train of thought.

    This is possible, I guess… but, again, if that’s the case your problem is no longer with the lip balm (or whatever else) but with your kid.

    And I was going to say, I don’t get why parents feel the need to send their kids to school with a ton of stuff that has nothing to do with school.

    Maybe because they’re not spending the whole day in school. Maybe they’re going to the library or the park after school, or to girl scouts, or a friend’s house, and would like to bring something with them. Maybe because they have recess (we hope) and would like a jump rope or a ball or some chalk to use on the playground. Maybe because it doesn’t do any harm if they bring around their favorite doll so long as they’re not playing with it when they’re supposed to be working. Maybe because they like to read at lunchtime, and so need a book. Maybe because their parents don’t pack their bags for them, feeling that this is the kid’s job. Maybe because the older kids would like to have a tampon on hand, or some deodorant for after gym.

    I mean, SKL, seriously – when you go to work, you don’t bring anything? You don’t bring a book to read during lunch, or some tissues in case you get a runny nose, or a snack to eat at your desk, or a stress ball, or maybe a picture of your kids to keep in your wallet? You don’t bring your cell phone to work? And your work space is completely bare and generic so you don’t get distracted?

    Granted you’re an adult and not a child in school, but the same general principle should apply. If you think it’s so distracting to have as little as a single stick of lip balm on a child’s person, it seems reasonable that this is because YOU are very easily distracted. (Isn’t this something we should teach children out of if at all possible?)

    I guess I am old-fashioned.

    Not especially. I read a *lot* of old books. Fiction, memoirs/autobiographies, and of course, semi-autobiographical fiction. My understanding of Schools in the Past is that children brought any number of toys and candies and distractions with them… at least, having a toy or a candy or a distraction confiscated when it’s out at the wrong time comes up very often in all these books, and in my mother and grandmother’s recollections of THEIR childhoods. However, my relations at least can’t recall these things being banned – they just weren’t allowed once they were disruptive. (And my grandmother, at least, is older than you.)

    I suspect your viewpoint is more limited. You’re not old-fashioned, you’re SKL fashioned. YOU don’t think lip balm is necessary, so YOU think students shouldn’t bring it to class under any circumstances. YOU don’t think water is necessary at the desk, so you’ve decided it’s more disruptive than getting up to use the fountain. But if it’s something you DID grow up with and you DID see as normal – you don’t get why people would want to ban it!

    It’s like the birthday party debates. If you post about how birthday parties in class are out of control, lots of people go “Yeah, we never had all those parties as kids, they should be banned!” But if you post about how a school doesn’t let you bring cupcakes for a kid’s birthday, just as many people go “We always had birthday parties in school, they’re ruining childhood!” And they both call themselves old-fashioned, but neither group is older than the other! Instead, they’re assuming that what they did as kids is what everybody should do… and they’re determined to make the evidence fit those facts.

    We probably all do it to some extent. Best thing to do is to realize it… and then ask yourself “Is the argument I’m making based upon what I remember of my own childhood logical? Or does it really sound kinda stupid when I think about it?”

  85. This is, I think a sly way to avoid having to address PDA (public display of affection)…after all…
    Could we be just a little more STUPID about how we manage our kids? I understand why we don’t want our kids walking around the way we did in the 70s/80s, with a purse full of Tylenol, Midol, whatever, that we shared with our friends as needed…but even at that, I can’t recall a single case of cold medicine OD when I was in secondary school. A Chapstick? Maybe the kids should start carrying CARMEX…

  86. If lip balm is distracting a particular child, ANYTHING will distract that particular child. If kids are using lip balm in a distracting manner than they are not engaged in the classroom and will simply distract with something else if lip balm is taken away – something else will become the fad. Unless we are going to sit these students on the floor with nothing around them in a straight jackets and hog-tied, they are going to distract unless we get them engaged in what is going on in the classroom.

    Further, what’s with the we have to ban everything BEFORE it becomes a problem and for EVERYONE mentality? What exactly does that teach children? It doesn’t teach them to responsibly handle their lip balm. It teaches them that no matter how responsible they are, someone is going to eventually ruin it for everyone so there is no point in being responsible. Let’s wait until something is actually a distraction before proclaiming it a distraction. And then maybe let’s only punish the student using it as a distraction and only outright ban the item if it has become an overall classroom distraction.

    I know that it’s not PC (but I hate PC anyway) but personally I think the level of learning was hindered by when they stopped “tracking” students – grouping students in classrooms based on actual ability and willingness to learn rather than equality of race and sex. Today the teacher must either break into groups (more difficult to do now that the aids and parapros are being removed from the classroom, at least in my area, due to budget) or teach to the slowest student, boring the rest of the class. My child will start kindergarten next year. Her class will vary from kids who have never seen a book in their lives to kids who don’t speak a word of English to kids who can already read. Their parents vary from crack whore to dean of the law school. No matter how gifted, one teacher (now without the help of teacher’s aids) cannot adequately handle that divergence and teach those who are way behind while still engaging those who are way ahead.

    Private schools are successful, in large part, because they can choose who to accept. Everyone in the school will have about the same ability and if a kid is totally unmotivated or completely disruptive, he’ll be kicked out. I’m not saying that public schools should refuse to educate certain students but grouping kids who are years behind with kids who are years ahead does a huge disservice to both groups. The kids behind feel dumb and stop trying. The kids ahead get bored and lazy. Accepting that every kid is not equally book smart, every kid is not equally motivated and every kid does not have to go to college would go a long way to curing the education problem in this country. Most countries that are considered successful in educating their children have tracked schools and college-bound tracks and vocational tracks.

  87. I am not the person who decided to ban lip balm in the school, you know. Someone else did – hence this whole post – and there must have been some inappropriate use before the ban was instituted.

    No, I am not on a general crusade to ban lip balm. I just don’t see why it’s considered such a sacred right that people will get up in arms when it is banned.

    Uly, I have heard all those arguments about how we’re really teaching more stuff nowadays, etc. But when I frequently encounter adults who have no idea how to make change (and not in the Goodwill store), I know it is more than that. If we’re teaching “understanding” more successfully, why are people so incapable of making basic life decisions?

    There has never been a time when all learners used the same learning style. There have always been and always will be “memorizers,” and there will always be people who refuse to memorize because it has to make sense to them first. As for cramming, note the current popularity of “prep courses” for various standardized exams. When I was a kid, it was considered unethical to “prep” for a standardized test.

  88. there must have been some inappropriate use before the ban was instituted.

    That’s a sweeping assumption. The general tone of the article is that this was pre-emptive, and that there WAS no inappropriate use. The person quoted even said that some parents MIGHT object IF their kids share – that doesn’t sound like it’s already a problem, that sounds like not allowing kids to bike to school because something-might-happen. We see posts about this sort of what-if thinking all the time here, I see no reason to assume that this one time the administration was acting sensibly.

    But when I frequently encounter adults who have no idea how to make change (and not in the Goodwill store), I know it is more than that.

    Funny thing about that. This presupposes that there was a time when adults could regularly do basic math… and yet, if you read up about it, you’ll find people one, two, three, four generations ago complaining that today, adults don’t know how to do math. That’s their today, not ours 🙂

    It’s like looking for that magical time when everybody understood how to use the English apostrophe. It doesn’t exist.

    With that said, SKL, you’re talking about adults. They’re not the ones using (or not) lip balm in the classroom right now. The classroom discipline and educational styles you’re criticizing are from at *least* two decades ago – possibly more. Who knows, maybe our current methods (assuming every teacher and school has the same ones, but let’s run with that) are going to lead to that wonderful, magical era when everybody understands math! I doubt it, but it’s nice to imagine such a thing, isn’t it?

  89. Donna, I know you can’t see me, but I’m giving you a standing ovation.

    As the mother of a highly able math student, he was bored to death in elementary school. So instead of paying attention he played with things that were close to him. His 1st grade teacher wanted him tested for ADD. He was BORED so he entertained himself. It’s hard for kids to switch from boredom in math to being interested in some other subject, so everything suffered. It wasn’t until 7th grade that he was allowed to move to a higher math class. He’s been honor roll every year since.

    The reason teachers from years ago were able to teach 30 or more kids in their classes were because they were way more homogeneous. My brother, who’s now late 50’s, was in the excelerated classes and we had special education classes for those that couldn’t learn as fast. If you follow the money it makes perfect sense why it was changed. Smaller classes equals more teachers equals more union dues.

  90. Apparently Uly, you and I will have to agree to disagree on this matter. Personally I think it’s “worst-first” thinking to assume that a ban arose from pure stupidity until proven otherwise.

    By the way, I went back and read that article more slowly, and they haven’t even banned the stuff. They just want parents to write a note if they want their kids to use it. They say that this will make it more likely that parents are talking to their kids about how to use it properly and not to share. (What some of the commenters here are suggesting.) I don’t see the big problem. It’s not like they’re prohibiting kids from breathing air pending a permission slip.

    So the parents will have to decide which is the lesser of the two evils – having to pen a brief note, or having to keep the lip balm home. Oh, the agony!

    Here’s a contrasting free range / school issue that gets my goat. Homework assignments for parents. From being required to “check” homework to being required to actually read assigned novels with one’s kids. No, no, no. My job is to send my kids to school rested, clothed, and fed, and having learned basic age-appropriate social behaviors. If they are old enough for homework, my job extends to providing a place and time for them to do it, and even telling them I think it’s important that they be responsible about it. I might even consequence them if they disrespect their teachers by ignoring their responsibilities. But I will not perform school assignments (unless it’s for post-graduate credit). Assuming homework has any value at all, much is lost if it isn’t the child’s own responsibility.

  91. Oh and Uly, I wish the educational issues I am complaining about were only 2 decades old. A lot of this crap started in the mid-1900s, in certain “progressive” public school systems. It got progressively worse over the decades. Kids weren’t being expected to read until 2nd grade in some schools. Educators were convincing ed students that kids were incapable. I was actually taught that kids couldn’t really read before age 7. (Funny thing though, my 4-year-old sister was reading to me every day.) For an interesting perspective, read “Marva Collins’ Way.”

    Sure, educators love to argue that the old way was “just rote learning” and all that. Come on. Do you really believe that? Have you read many old school textbooks? For that matter, how much of today’s textbooks are actually “read”? (I think I may be the only person I know who thought reading the chapter might be a good way of understanding a math concept that wasn’t explained well in class. “You read your math book??”)

  92. Well, SKL, we seem to be on the civil side of things with each other this month, so sure – I’ll drop it if you will.

    But I really do agree with you on the homework for parents concept! Signing homeworks and tests makes sense, for younger students IF they’ve been having trouble on homework or tests – it’s a way to confirm that the parent knows the child is struggling. But it’s beyond absurd to make my sister sign her kindergartener’s homework every day, and send snippy notes if she doesn’t (even if all the homework was completed on Monday… which also gets a snippy note. “It reinforces what we did in class!” Well, she did it all on her own without any help or guidance, so clearly she doesn’t need to wait.) Actually, I think homework for a child who just turned five last month is pretty absurd in and of itself, but that’s another issue.

  93. Aw heck. It’s not germs you have to worry about. It’s cooties.

  94. not new here in the People’s Republic of California. When my son (now 5th grade) was in kindergarten I got a note explaining that he was not allowed to have chapstick (or sunscreen, sanitizer, etc.) at school. If I want him to have it I need to bring a note and leave the items with the nurse. My son then needs to go to the nurse to get his items from the locked cabinet! It is hard enough getting him to use these things when they are right at hand! And since he attends the after care program, I need to send two separate chapsticks (sunscreen, etc.) and two notes to be sure he is covered all day!

    Of course, if I had a daughter she wouldn’t be able to get a tylenol from the school nurse without my permission, but she can get an abortion without my consent or knowledge – where is the sense in that?

    SKL – with regard to the “parents’ homework” issue my take is that signing tests or that we saw his homework is my SON’S responsibility, not mine/hubby’s. My son gets out the things that need to be signed and makes sure they get signed by me or his dad before putting them away in his bag. It is a tool that we don’t need to keep up with my son’s progress, but it does help the teacher and probably some parents. I have helped in the classroom enough to know that not every parent is adequately involved. I would say that I agree having to read a book together or similar things are too much. Although I would like an excuse to read together more now that my son considers himself “too old” to be read to much of the time :D.

  95. “Hang on-didn’t the story start by saying “parents were afraid”-not that the school came up with the idea of banning first? In my experience, school administrators and teachers do not have time to sit around dreaming up endless banns on things-but as soon as a parent or small group of parents complains about these things, they feel they have to “cave in” or there will be larger problems-even so far as a lawsuit or some action in that regard. ”

    Not good enough. Schools should not cave in in a way that usurps parents’ ability to make reasonable judgments about their own children just because some meddlesome parents want them to. The meddlesome parents don’t get to trump all the rights and interests of the parents who want to supervise their own kids’ (reasonable, harmless) actions. If the school caves here, they are being complicit in the meddling, they aren’t helpless victims of the meddlers.

    Yes, I know they “feel” they have no choice, but they need to stop feeling that way because 1) it is false and 2) acting in this way is not a harmless means of the school protecting itself, it is harmful to the families who want to teach their kids responsibility and exercise their own responsibility in the process.

  96. someone may have said this already, but in case they didn’t:

    The arguments in favor (or at least in sympathy with) the chapstick ban focus on “it’s not necessary”. To which I say: “so!”

    Schools should not be banning anything based on whether or not they are necessary, but rather whether or not the thing is actually dangerous or disruptive. Lip balm (of any brand) is not dangerous or disruptive, and therefore should not be banned.

    That said, I will instruct my kids to NOT share lip balm, and will give them tiny tubs of Carmex brand lip balm. It requires dabbing your finger in the balm and spreading it that way. While not fool proof, it at least creates an additional layer of protection from the Herpes virus, which is the thing that I would worry most about transmitting anyway. Cold viruses are airborne, and if a kids gets a cold, the rest of the class will get it soon enough, with or without sharing lip balm.

  97. Brian, that’s exactly what I was trying to get at, thank you!

  98. SKL – telling parents that they *have to* grant permission to their kids in order to allow them to have lip balm is a bit over the top. Do they have to grant permission to allow the kids to have combs? To allow them sneeze?

    Of course, suggesting to the parents, via a note sent home, email, etc, that the kids not share lip balm makes perfect sense. Even to instruct children that sharing lip balm passes germs makes sense. But policing a policy (including keeping track of which kids have permission for which personal care items) is a burden that teachers don’t need, and that provides no additional instruction benefit.

    For those reasons, and the ones I stated before, I think that the ban is counter productive and should be banned.

  99. BrianJ, but you don’t think it’s a pain for teachers to keep track of whose lip balm is whose, if everyone brings it and uses it whenever, wherever? I mean, we’re talking about first graders here.

  100. And they keep track of whose pencil is whose, right? Kids don’t stick those in their mouths and suck and chew on them, even if it’s not theirs, right?

    And they make sure the kids always wash their hands after sneezing, right? (Well… maybe they do, actually!)

    They also keep track of who eats what lunch and ensures they don’t share, right? And they keep track of winter coats and outdoor hats and combs and hair scrunchies and clips (that seem to come off ALL THE TIME) to make sure nobody puts another child’s headgear on, yes? Lice, ew!

    As for “using it whenever, wherever”, well – yeah. What is the big deal with this concept? If they’re using it “whenever, wherever” there’s a pretty good shot the teacher doesn’t have to police it at all because they have their lip balm, like their pencils, at their desk and with them.

    It’s not like there’s something you can do to keep kids from getting sick, other than the basic shots and keeping them home when they’re shedding germs all over the place.

    (And I said I’d stay OUT of this! Sorry.)

  101. Right on, Donna, Brian, and Uly.

    SKL, who said that teachers *should be* keeping track of it? Teachers should instruct the kids in not sharing things that go in their mouths, discourage it when they see it obviously happening, and otherwise not overly concern themselves with it.

  102. OK, well, I’m going to shut up now and agree to disagree. I don’t think we’re on the same page and that’s OK. I am pretty “free-range,” but I actually hope they have a rule against bringing all that stuff to school when my kids go to first grade. If the teachers don’t ban it, I will. I personally think it will be better for my kids’ education. If I’m wrong, that’s OK, my kids have to find something to hate me for.

  103. “If the teachers don’t ban it, I will. I personally think it will be better for my kids’ education. If I’m wrong, that’s OK, my kids have to find something to hate me for.”

    That’s exactly the point. You ban it. You’re the parent. You make the decision. You don’t make the decision for every other kid of every other parent, or try to strongarm the school into doing it.

    Frankly, if I found out a younger child of mine was playing with lip balm all day long and passing it around, I’d “ban” it too, at least until they showed a little more responsibility with it. I can imagine right now that if my 9 yo went to school, he might need that kind of temptation eliminated, and a younger version of him certainly would have. But it just isn’t the school’s business to ban essentially innocuous, minimally distracting things for every child, whether some parents would prefer to shift the responsibility to the school or not.

  104. “I actually hope they have a rule against bringing all that stuff to school when my kids go to first grade.”

    Why? So you don’t have to be the bad guy? So that you can say to your kids “Sorry, the SCHOOL won’t let you bring lip balm to school,” instead of having to say “I don’t want you to take lip balm to school?” Why do you have a right to tell me what my kid can bring to school (understanding that I assume we are not in the same school district)? Why do parents who don’t believe that lip balm hinders their children’s education have to stop their children from bringing it because you don’t think that YOUR kids can focus when they have lip balm in their possession?

    The kids in after school care at my daughter’s pre-k are allowed to bring personal items to play with. My daughter was taking all this stuff to school and then giving it away to her friends. I eventually told her that she was prohibited from taking anything else to school. I didn’t go to the school and insist that they make a rule forbidding after school kids from bringing stuff to school. I was willing to step up and parent my child (and only my child). My daughter learned to stop giving her things away and is now allowed to take stuff to school again.

  105. OK, I was going to shut up, but I have to answer a new allegation. Yes, in the end I made this about “my” kids because I at least have the power over them. However, I truly believe it is better for MOST kids, or at least MANY kids, other than my own. I believe it is better educationally for kids to have fewer distractions in the classroom, and I believe lip balm is a distraction not only for my kids, but for others, hence affecting the class as a whole. In addition, if it becomes the “thing to do” socially (which is often what triggers bans in the first place), then kids who otherwise would not need or want lip balm will be wanting to bring it to school, compounding the distraction. That is my belief and you are free to disagree with it, but don’t make it about me hurting your child for my child’s benefit.

    Furthermore, my kids have to do plenty to accommodate other people’s individual needs. From peanut butter bans to special educational needs accommodations, we dare not speak a word against them, even if it’s for one child’s benefit versus 30 children’s inconvenience / distraction. Fine and dandy, but somehow distractability doesn’t qualify for any consideration at all.

    For the record, neither of my kids is particularly distractable compared to others their age, and both are academically advanced. They don’t need to burden YOUR kids in order to survive in school. I’m just speaking from experience regarding many kids, and from an understanding of how learning occurs.

  106. I think I agree with the poster earlier who said that you personally find lip balm unnecessary and therefore just don’t want people to have it in school, probably along with many other things that you personally don’t find necessary.

    My child has lip balm in her cubby at school now. Just about every other kid in the class has lip balm in school too since the school encourages them to bring it in the winter. They are allowed access to their cubbies all day. We all just had parent/teacher conferences and the decline in learning since the cold weather set in due to lip balm distraction was not an item mentioned. Frankly, you are probably the only person I’ve met in my life who actually believes that lip balm is such a distraction in the class room that it needs to be banned. That kinda leads me to believe that it is not a distraction at all.

  107. SKL — isn’t that “what if” thinking?

    IF it becomes that big of a distraction and a problem, the teacher can mention it and request that parents not allow their kids to bring it. Or, maybe that as a second step — first step being asking kids not to take it out except when given breaks, and reminding them that sharing is not a good idea.

    IF that doesn’t work, and/or you’re in a situation where parents don’t take much responsibility and it really continues to seriously distract from education (and I know there are such schools or even just some cohorts of parents that create a “rough year” for a teacher, but it is by no means a problem for every teacher) then maybe it’s time for a ban.

    But why ban something inherently innocuous on a “what if”?

  108. I have not made myself clear (or people here are predisposed to think anyone who wants to limit anything is an idiot). I believe the educational environment should be as free of distractions as reasonably possible, because I believe that would enhance learning for the average kid. (When I say “distraction” here, I mean anything that uses mental energy that is intended to be focused on the lesson; and that includes mundane things such as lip balm – which would rarely even be thought of in class unless the mind was developing a habit of wandering from the lesson.) Instead of a long list of what you can’t bring to class, there should be a short list of what you can bring, in my opinion. And yeah, if you have a medical need to use lip balm more than every 45 minutes, then bring a note and you can do it in class.

    This reminds me of the argument that you can’t be free range unless you let your kids play in the street. I think the street is mainly for cars, and there needs to be a darn good reason to make an exception for kids playing there. Hence I have a stick up my butt.

  109. SKL, I don’t think you’re an idiot or anything like that. I’ve just been answering your reasons with why I don’t think they really hold up. But I don’t have a low opinion of you for having a different view.

    Like others, I think you overestimate the effect of “distractions” like this. Don’t misunderstand — I understand that kids are distractable, and some particularly so. I guess I just have a fundamental philosophical disagreement with the “restrict everything and permit little” approach, as opposed to the maximum freedom unless something is *actually shown to be a problem* approach. I don’t see the former as either necessary or as promoting the kind of outlook on life we want to develop in our kids. I feel pretty strongly differently from you about this, but I don’t think you’re stupid or evil — I have good friends who think similarly. It would be pretty arrogant to think people who think differently are stupid for doing so, even if I really believe you’re wrong. After all, I’m wrong about some things, too (of which obviously I’m unaware or I wouldn’t continue to think as I do) and I wouldn’t appreciate being thought stupid for it.

  110. SKL, you’re being inconsistent. First you’re saying children shouldn’t bring lip balm to school at all, and then you’re saying they should be able to use it between classes (as though in elementary school there’s any “between classes” to speak of!) but not during. It literally cannot be both ways.

  111. Actually, Uly, I said it wasn’t necessary and not a right worth fighting to the death about. I don’t have a problem with those who will be responsible with it keeping it in coat pockets (as I mentioned before) or lockers, and using it outside of class times. But the simpler solution would be to just not send it to school, for most kids.

  112. Pentamom, correct me if I’m wrong, but you homeschool, right? I think completely different principles apply to the homeschool environment. The biggest reason is that you have the flexibility to tailor the lesson to your individual child, whereas in school, it’s a 45-minute lesson at a set time in a set place. If your kid gets distracted and doesn’t finish his lesson, you can have him make up for it at another time of day – and he knows this, and this probably affects his behavior. In school, if only 35 of the 45 minutes of learning takes place, there is no chance to make up the other 10 minutes.

    But I respect your right to disagree.

  113. SKL, are you actually proposing that lip balm would create 10 minutes worth of distraction, per lesson?

  114. SKL, yes, I homeschool, but I went to school once upon a time, and I was a kid, and everything — so I was basing my assessment on what a school setting is like, not my homeschooling situation.

    BTW, I don’t quite take that cavalier attitude — “If he doesn’t finish his lesson, oh, well, he can just make it up later.” I mean, that reality, that cushion is there, and I do have the advantage of being able to make use of it sometimes — but it’s important to me to keep my kids focused, so I’m not just assuming that “This is not a problem” because it’s not something I personally have to worry about. I’m saying let’s not assume that something IS a problem, unless and until it becomes one. If you are right that it is, measures can be taken. I’m just against pre-emptive banning of things because someone is able to imagine a scenario where this happens, and then that happens, and then you have an education fiasco on your hands. That’s a mild form of “what if” or “worst first” thinking — not on the same level as some of the absurdities Lenore posts about, to be sure, but it’s the same thought pattern, and I don’t think it’s a useful way to organize a school or anything else.

  115. Uly, no, I’m talking in generalities, and I’m talking about all kinds of distractions that people nowadays think are no problem. No, I did not do a study and determine the length of time children lose per class on lip balm is 10 minutes. Sigh.

    Actually I’d be shocked if a study were done and it was found that 7/9 of all class minutes were actually spent on focused learning in the average school classroom. I’m pretty sure it would come out less than 50%. But no, I have not done a study on that.

  116. SKL, I’d be surprised too – but I’d also be surprised if any of the distraction had to do with lip balm unless you had a teacher determined to confiscate anything “unnecessary”.

    There’s… let’s see, there’s time spent coming in and getting settled down. There’s the five minutes between the warning bell and the end of class, nothing gets done then. There’s time spent opening books, taking out homework, collecting and returning homework and tests. There’s time spent taking attendance, saying the pledge (if it’s that period), listening to announcements. You spend a few minutes assigning tomorrow’s homework, of course, and reviewing yesterday’s, and explaining that YES, the date for the essay is STILL the same as it was last time that was asked. If there’s any group work to be done (god, I hated that in school) there’s another few minutes while the students get in their groups. If there’s a discussion, time is wasted drawing some students out and shutting others up.

    And in my nieces’ elementary school they spend a lot of time getting up from their desks and then moving to their groups and then sitting on the floor and this and that and then back to their desks.

    So yes, I think there’s a lot of time spent moving kids around and similar that cuts into learning.

    But you’ll note I didn’t mention one distraction the kids bring in. If it is a problem, let the teacher deal with it, or the parents, as necessary.

  117. In my class using lip balm isn’t a distraction. The kids apply it as needed and no one blinks.

    Having lips so chapped (reaction to rag weed for several kids) that they bleed when you try to talk is a HUGE distraction. If a child’s lips are visibly cracking/bleeding, I ask them if they have lip balm.

    If they don’t I send them to nurse who gives them a small sample tube and a note asking parents to please send lip balm with student.

    I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that the nannies up in Austin don’t catch wind of this and require it to be kept in the nurses office. (They are a little busy destroying science in the Lone Star state so I think lip balm is safe)

  118. Mine banned eye droppers. Even if they are only filled with water

  119. Next they will just ban the kids. So much easier that way.

  120. The crash of decaying civilization is coming and thankfully the nanny state weak will simply die as nature intended. Life is reserved for those strong enough to survive natures crucible. Life is struggle.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: