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A chalkboard outside the toy store Learning Express advertises spinners for sale. The toys are becoming increasingly popular among Montclair children.
PHOTO BY ERIN ROLL/STAFF

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

Spinners have come to Montclair, and at least one school in town has already banned them.

The miniature three-pronged metal and plastic toys — originally marketed as helpers for children with anxiety and attention deficit issues — are becoming a must-have item for kids (and more than a few adults) in Montclair.

School districts around the country are banning spinners from the classroom, or setting rules about who can bring them to school.

According to several students at Glenfield Middle School, kids are forbidden to use the devices unless they have a note from a doctor. The principal at Glenfield School did not reply to a request for comment on the school’s policy, nor did the principals of Montclair’s other middle schools.

Interim Superintendent Barbara Pinsak said that she had had informal discussion with some of the school principals.

“Our principals make decisions that are right for their schools and situations. Whether or not there are procedures/restrictions for these toys in the schools depends on the age/grade and the circumstances,” she said in an email. “We do not view these toys as a big problem at this time. If we believe there is a problem, we will address it.”

In Glen Ridge, schools superintendent Dirk Phillips said that the district had not yet made any school-level or district-level rules regarding spinners and fidget toys. Attempts to reach school administrators in Verona were unsuccessful.

Marlene Lewis is the owner of Sunshine Sam’s, a toy shop specializing in battery-free toys, on Valley Road.

“Ours have been purchased 100 percent for kids — usually with their allowance or as something they’ve earned. You can tell parents are unsure about them. They definitely don’t buy them as a gift,” Lewis said.

The spinners at Sunshine Sam’s cost about $20, which Lewis said is the higher end of the price range.

“They’ve really become quite the phenomenon, but I do know that they’ve also become a disruption in the classroom as they’ve been used by children who don’t need them during school. I think their popularity really makes a statement about children’s ability to concentrate if they don’t have something in their hands to play with.”

Chocolate Works on South Park Street also carries spinners as well as fidget cubes, similar devices that have a different feature on each side, such as an on/off switch, gears, and push buttons.

Marcia Lemberg, the store’s owner, said it was mostly kids who were buying spinners, but that a number of adults were buying them as well, “people who are on their computer all day long, people who are on their phones all day long.” As Lemberg was speaking, a customer who identified himself as a police officer bought one.

At Glenfield Middle School, students are quite familiar with spinners.

“It’s a small hand-held device that you spin with your fingers and people use it in class with the excuse that it helps them focus but for the majority of the people that use it it’s just a fun accessory and an excuse to play with toys in class,” said Caleb, a seventh-grader. “They’re sort of a collectible fad like [the] rainbow loom from a couple of years ago where people knit bracelets and it just disappeared after a couple of months, which I predict is what’s going to happen to [fidget spinners].”

“It can be kind of noisy and distract other people,” said seventh-grader Ross. “People just … spend a lot of money on them. … They were banned but people still use them.”

Ashton, a seventh-grader, said, “It’s basically just a toy that people use to help people who have ADHD.”

“It’s a toy that people spin to have something going in their hands to concentrate more,” said Savannah, an eighth-grader. “It’s cool. … I think it’s definitely a fad.”

Montclair Local interns Nell Beck and Ben Wilson contributed reporting to this article.

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