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Back to No. 2 Pencils

Students may think they're cool, but some teachers have had enough of gel pens.

After 8th graders at Murray Hill Middle School in Laurel, Md., used the popular multicolored pens to decorate their bodies, the 521-student school banned them.

"It was an incredible distraction," said Lynette Moore, the 8th grade team leader at Murray Hill. "They were drawing flowers on their arms, the names of people they liked, and some of the boys were painting their fingernails and putting tattoos on their faces."

The Murray Hill staff isn't alone. Schools throughout the country are barring the gel-ink pens, which come in neon, pastel, and metallic hues.

"We've seen an increase in the number of schools that are banning the pens," said Terri Schulist, the president of the School- Pak Supply Co., which provides supplies to schools in 47 states. "About 25 percent are saying 'no gel pens.' "

Teachers complain that the ink stains carpeting when pens leak or break open, Ms. Schulist said. One manufacturer she spoke to is discontinuing the popular metallic-silver color because of the pens' tendency to dry up or leak.

Students at Murray Hill were using the pens to write assignments, often in colors that were hard for teachers to read.

Gel pens were designed for artistic use, not schools. Manufacturers such as Pentel recommend that users write on dark paper.

Said Scott Smith, the public relations coordinator at Pentel of America Ltd., which makes Milky Gel Rollers: "They were designed to be used on a specific dark paper where the color becomes enhanced, or for cards or notes where people want to add that extra touch."

—Marianne Hurst

Vol. 20, Issue 40, Page 3

Published in Print: June 13, 2001, as Take Note

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