Schools Pull The Plug On Pokn Craze

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Payson Elementary School Principal Roy Sandoval said the Pokn craze may be all the rage among students but it's not going to disrupt education at his school.


"It's difficult for us mere adults to understand the language of Pokn," he said."These things come through and somebody makes a lot of money -- I'm just not smart enough to think of it."


But it's not sour grapes that has Sandoval and other school principals in the district banning Pokn from the schools. It's a concern for education.


Pokn cards and toys are distracting the students from getting an education, said Julia Randall Elementary School Principal Sue Clark.


Clark said she has seen some students who seem to be addicted to the Pokn craze.


"But that's the same as any trend, as far as toys go," she said. "We're treating this the same as any other toy that disrupts education. The decision was made at the first of the year."


Kassie Hesson, a Payson Elementary School aide, doesn't understand Pokn, but she has two young boys, Jacob, 7, and Gabriel, 5, who are avid collectors of Pokn cards, "little round things," stamps and stuffed animals.


Jacob explains that his father, James Hesson, got him started on his collection and collects "hollographic" Pokn cards himself. "I saw 'em on TV -- that's why I got 'em," Jacob said.


Kassie took her two young collectors to Burger King Monday. The fast-food franchise offers cards and toys along with their meals as special promotions. They were out of toys Monday and were scheduled to get a new supply later in the week. One young girl walked away without eating.


"I love that commercial where the parents don't know what's going on with this Pokn," Kassie said. "That's how I feel."


Jacob and Gabriel have their favorite characters -- there are 150 of them whose names change like a Russian novel. And, although they haven't yet seen "Pokn, the First Movie," they've heard about it from friends who have.


"Whoever gets in the way of them, they turn into stone," said Gabriel. "Awesome."


Gabriel talked about the characters' ability to fight, and Jacob said they have a weakness.

"They just get knocked out," Jacob said. "It's a good thing because they can come back alive."


Sandoval said he's as curious about the phenomenon as Kassie.


Sandoval said he decided not to allow Pokn cards and toys into PES the minute he saw them.

"Last year, it was Gigapets," he said. "Several years ago, it was Pogs. We're not treating this any differently than anything else."


Sandoval said his 7-year-old son, Ben, is "a perfect Pokn target."


Ben has gotten into collecting Pokn, and also went to see "Pokn, the First Movie," with friends in Flagstaff. Ben didn't have any rave revues for the movie, Sandoval said, but he continues to collect Pokn cards and toys and Sandoval helps him.


"It's just like collecting baseball cards or stamps," he said. "Parents can emphasize that it's not for school. For parent participation, it's great."


Rim Country Middle School Principal Frank Larby saw some good in the craze and allowed Pokn card trading at the school until last Tuesday.


"When problems started, I really had no choice but to ban them," Larby said. "It started out very constructive. The cards were not violent. We saw kids who normally don't interact start talking to each other."


Kassie said she also didn't have a problem with the cards and the toys. She said she's probably going to take her children to see the movie, but she's not letting the boys watch the show. "It's way too intense for me -- we don't watch it at our house."


At the middle school, the interactions that seemed to be constructive also turned out to be too intense. Larby said there were thefts and conflicts between the trading students, most of them at the 6th and 7th grade level -- that's when Larby pulled the plug on Pokn. "When problems started cropping up, I really had no choice but to ban them," he said.


"Last Tuesday, I announced that the cards couldn't be brought to school any longer," Larby said. "Most of the kids are complying, but there are still some sneaking them in -- but they're not bringing whole binders anymore."


School Superintendent Herb Weissenfels said the latest craze among the younger set has created problems for schools all over the country.


"Hundreds of schools have forbidden students from bringing Pokn cards into the school campuses," he said. "Somebody has made a hit with a magic golden goose."


Principal Sue Myers said the students at Frontier Elementary School were initially allowed to bring Pokn cards to school.


"We do have a child or two who can name all 150 Pokn characters," she said. "To begin with, we let them bring them, but we had some stolen and re-thought it and said, 'no.'"


FES officials now consider Pokn cards and toys to be in the same category as other toys, which are not allowed in the school.


Myers said she hasn't seen one of the more recent crazes, Pogs, in two years. Beanie Babies were never a problem in the schools, she said, because they are items that are treasured by the students' mothers and were not allowed out of the house.


Doris Randall, executive secretary with Pine Elementary School, said flatly, "No Pokn on campus."


Randall said school officials in Pine could see the problem when classes started.


"The kids were trading them back and forth and we just established at the first of the year that no Pokn cards would be allowed."

Free enterprise

While the schools may be banning heavy Pokn trading, Burger King is capitalizing on the phenomenon.


Local Burger King Manager Fara Diaz said the Payson restaurant is promoting Pokn trading Tuesday nights until the end of the year.


"They can bring any Pokn toy or card to trade on Tuesdays from 7:30 p.m. on," she said.


Burger King also has 23-karat gold-plated Pokn cards for sale for $1.99 with the purchase of every Value Meal. They're limiting the sales to three per visit, Diaz said.


While the pocket monsters remain outlawed on campus, Sandoval said he'll continue to keep Pokn cards and toys out of PES, but go home at night to help his son, Ben, with his collection.


"To me, it's not a scourge," he said. "When you run a school, there's a lot of other things to stress about."

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