Best reasons to risk detention

Lizards, iPods and the distractions kids can’t resist bringing to class


No one was willing to go on the record at first. Not the teachers and definitely not the students. They thought exposing the unauthorized items they bring into the classroom might get them busted or, like, decrease the number of Brownie points they’d accumulated. It was just too risky.

We assured them we weren’t talking about the serious CSI stuff: illegal drugs and handguns. Sure, one teacher in Elk Grove mentioned how the occassional problem child will wear a set of brass knuckles, or the especially “cool” kids will don probation ankle bracelets. Another teacher remembers a fair share of switchblade knives and a pair of nunchakus students couldn’t resist showing off.

No, we said. We’re thinking more along the lines of the weird, silly, slightly scandalous items students take to school, because, well, we actually have no idea why kids do the things they do, but SN&R is all about sticking it to the Man—even if that man is a public-school teacher dodging a spitball.

After an intense search to find teachers willing to talk, we located Stephanie Fulps, a former physical-education teacher at a private elementary school in Fair Oaks. She’d heard about a kindergartner who brought in an urn with his dog’s ashes for show and tell. A crisis situation ensued.

“The kids immediately went home and told their parents and the poor teacher had to make a whole bunch of phone calls explaining what happened,” Fulps said.

Fulps taught a first-grade P.E. class after recess. One day as the students lined up for relays, one boy said “Hold on, wait!” He had to put something down first. He reached slowly down the leg of his pants—worrying Fulps a bit—and pulled out a huge stick. It could almost be called a tree branch it was so big. What on Earth was he going to do with that?

“He was in first grade. He just had to have it,” Fulps explained.

Good stories, but too G-rated for our purposes. SN&R prefers the stuff that breaks official rules, beginning with dress codes. Clothing attire seems to be a big deal in school—no tank tops with spaghetti straps, gang colors (red and blue), do-rags or oversized white T-shirts allowed.

“As far as clothing items, my personal faves were the skirts sported by some male students to protest an unfair cross-dressing ban in a high-school dress code. I rocked one myself, albeit over my pants, in sympathy,” said local actor Miles Miniaci, who taught high school for years in the San Juan Unified School District.

OK, upon further reflection, the dress-code situation is simply no good. There’s not really an effective way to rebel against the code if the teachers get in on the act and ruin the fun. But clothes can help—ahem, pardon the pun—pull the wool over a teacher’s eyes. For example, distracting teachers by wearing pajamas so they won’t notice the iPod plugged into a student’s ears.

A teacher who spoke with SN&R on condition of anonymity said students often try to play hand-held Nintendo video games in class. Totally unauthorized. One student brought in Cranium (must have been an honors student), which wasn’t exactly “authorized” by the teacher, but she ended up allowing the kids to play the game in her classroom during lunch.

A few of the teachers SN&R spoke with guiltily admitted they’re sometimes entertained by end-of-school-year water-balloon fights, an annual tradition. Sometimes, the bravest students bring in water guns and unleash wet madness on campus. One teacher in Elk Grove was definitely not amused, but probably just because he got hit in the crossfire.

Kids are weird. That’s all there is to it. How else can we explain the students, encountered by every teacher we spoke with, who feel compelled to stuff living animals into their backpacks?

“One of my students wanted to bring in an injured squirrel for show and tell. She had hidden it in a shoe box in her garage and her parents didn’t even know about it. I said ‘no,’” said Amy George, a fourth-grade teacher in Davis.

At Miniaci’s school, “One young man brought his beloved ferret in his backpack, thinking he could keep it concealed throughout the day,” he said. “Turns out he couldn’t.”

At another local high school, a student snuck a puppy into his bag, but the puppy escaped in the classroom and peed on the rug. And yet a different teacher said, “One girl brought her pet lizard to school one day. That is probably one of the weirdest things a student has brought.”

Of all the great ideas presented, the oddest one we heard about unauthorized stuff at school—and the idea that took the most planning—involved a pair of handcuffs. This was back in the early 1980s in Elk Grove, when troublemaking-teenagers were less scary. Students were giving oral presentations one day, and the teacher was sitting at a desk in the back of the room when a couple students handcuffed him to the desk, carried him above their shoulders out to the quad and left him there. Thankfully, the teacher laughed along.

Class dismissed
Where students find the stuff they’re not supposed to have

Best source for backpack pets (water-based)

Capitol Aquarium and O Street Aquarium
Nothing will impress your peers like a secret aquarium. Check out both Capitol Aquarium and O Street Aquarium for a wide selection of fishy friends. Capitol Aquarium, 1920 29th Street; (916) 452-5556; O Street Aquarium, 3000 O Street; (916) 455-6782.

Best source for backpack pets (land-based)

Pet Connection and The Bird Shop
Want a furry creature, or maybe even a reptile, to accompany you to Spanish class? Then visit the Pet Connection. While you’re out there, go see the cool, loud and obnoxious birds at The Bird Shop. You can teach them Spanish, too! The Pet Connection, 4534 Auburn Boulevard; (916) 487-7387; The Bird Shop, 5553 Auburn Boulevard; (916) 338-0505;

Best goods for mental distraction

Comics and Collectibles
Students need something to stimulate the mind when alegbra is just not sinking in, and there’s nothing better than comic books. Electronics are expensive and always need recharging, but comic books are old-school and forever cool. 1904 Fruitridge Road, (916) 392-2467,

Best shop for pranksters

This Old Sacramento landmark offers hundreds of cheap gag gifts and novelty items sure to offend and befuddle school authorities. There’s really no subsitute for a whoopee cushion. 113 K Street, (916) 443-2181,