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Are fidget spinners helpful for students in schools or are they more of a hindrance and distraction?
Erik S. Hanley

Fidget spinners took Iowa schools by storm this spring. 

The twirling, hand-held toys at times exasperated teachers and distracted students.

But by the time school started this fall, interest had dissipated. 

“It seems to already be a bit of a passing fad,” said Des Moines Schools spokesman Phil Roeder. “Sort of the ‘Pokémon Go’ of 2017.”

The use of fidget spinners skyrocketed in April and May, prompting some schools to confiscate the gizmos or even ban them from classrooms or school buildings.

Their popularity was buoyed by tricks students learned online and showed off to friends.

But how schools approached the bans were complicated, and at times controversial. Some saw fidget spinners as a way to help students with anxiety, attention or autism-spectrum disorders.

Teachers also were divided. Some handed them out or sold them to raise money for classroom projects, believing in the benefits of fidgeting. 

First-grade teacher William Morris was among the fidget spinner defenders.

For one student in particular, who Morris said was always fiddling with his sweatpants strings and gazing down, the spinner helped occupy his hands and keep his focus on the lesson.

Morris sought permission to allow spinners in his classroom after Brubaker Elementary discouraged students from bringing them to school.

“To some families, it was a supportive tool,” Morris said. “They were crushed because they felt it was helping their children.”

Yet the distraction was very real in some classrooms. “Everyone had one,” said Mason Meyer, a Ceder Falls native who teaches music across the border in Jackson, Minnesota. 

At one point, roughly half of the teens in his choir classes had fidget spinners. 

They’d twirl — and inevitably fumble, drop or break them, leaving small metal parts flying across the room.

“When everyone began using them, it devalued the need” of students who benefited from fidgeting, Meyer said.

But the issue, once hotly debated by educators and parents, now appears moot. 

Since school started this…