Published Online: November 24, 1999
Published in Print: November 24, 1999, as Take Note

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What A Card

Pikachu

Muk, Squirtle, Pikachu, and the rest of the characters from the popular Pokémon trading cards are getting expelled from schools around the country.

Principals say the colorful cards, some of which are worth more than $100, distract from learning.

Pokémon, Japanese for "pocket monsters," started in Japan as a Nintendo video game in the mid-1990s.

"It was getting out of hand," said Janet Yungmann-Barkalow, the principal of J.D. Floyd Elementary School, a 930-student school in Spring Hill, on Florida's Gulf Coast. Ms. Yungmann- Barkalow has been confiscating the cards since the start of the school year. Students get their cards back only if their parents come to school and pick them up.

Spring Hill administrators spent four hours last May searching for a $75 Pokémon card that a student lost in the lunchroom. And this year, despite the ban, a spat over the cards led one child to threaten another on the school bus.

In Lakeland, Fla., a 7th grader allegedly "pushed and choked" teacher Brian Bridges, according to Lakeland police, when the teacher confiscated the cards from the Sleepy Hill Middle School student, who has since been expelled. The student also faces a charge of battery on a school employee, a third-degree felony in Florida.

Pokémon, Japanese for "pocket monsters," started in Japan as a Nintendo video game in the mid-1990s. But the product line has since expanded to include board and card games, toys, clothing, and a feature film that opened in the United States this month.The object of the game is to become a master trainer by collecting all 150 Pokémon characters. The cards sell for $9 to $15 per pack, but rare cards trade for much more.

Lawrence Smith, an elementary education professor at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., said educators are right to ban the cards. "If something becomes a distraction in the classroom, you must curtail it," he said.

But the obsession with the cards is nothing that teachers and principals haven't seen before. Marbles, baseball cards, and Beanie Babies have inspired similar crazes over the years. "If only we could pick up on some of that to help them learn their math facts," Ms. Yungmann- Barkalow said.

--Debra Viadero

Vol. 19, Issue 13, Page 3

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