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Can you shed some light on this?

We keep hearing about the push to stop wasteful behaviour, how it’s important to teach our children to reduce the amount of trash they produce, to reuse stuff-for the same or different purposes that it was originally intended, no matter as long as it means less waste-to actively recycle whatever we can from our household discards.

There are places like Earth911, Freecycle and many more.

And yet, when I call my local elementary school to ask if they would take notebooks with a few missing pages at the top (I swear, none of them less than ¾ new); boxes of crayons, colored pencils, and markers that have been used a bit, perhaps missing one or two colors; used plastic binders and folders in good shape, and other school supplies…

… I am told that jeez, they would be happy to take them if only they were new, but that they don’t have any use for my crap stuff.

So, I ask you, our readers…

What the hell?

Needing to let out some steam, I call my s.o. to rant about this, and what he tells me makes sense-in an unholy twisted way:

It’s politically incorrect.

Public schools cannot distribute used stuff to students because it may make the kids feel bad.

Parents may complain that their kids are being singled out as poor.

So apparently it’s better for the kids whose parents can’t afford new crap twice (or more) during the school year, to do without than to take used stuff from the classroom.

wtf-pandaOh but lest we think there is no environmental conscience in the school system, they celebrate Earth Day every year, making cards and bookmarks and the like, out of NEW materials.

To US residents: aren’t we happy our environmental conscience extends to educating our youngest children so that the following generations know all about getting new and shiny, and jack shit about reducing, reusing and recycling?


  • CindyS
    March 16
    11:33 am

    This makes me crazy and yet, the more I think about it the more I realize that it’s probably a policy that needed to be made.

    Let’s face it, some people’s definition of ‘gently used’ would be someone else’s definition of ‘garbage’. Someone might think ‘okay, there’s a page missing from this story book but it doesn’t really matter’ when in fact it might to the kid reading it and trying to understand the story.

    What you have described would seem like a boon to any school and this is where I think things are crazy.

    I can’t see lower economic schools declining anything – crayons etc would probably be greatly appreciated by pre-kindergarten and kindergarten (I remember as a kid not having my own pack of crayons – they were supplied and you picked from a huge pile)

    And I remember having stacks of ‘used’ paper that the teacher had at the front of the class that if you ran out of paper you could grab some of the sheets and write on the one side. I was never embarrassed to pick up these sheets. It never occurred to me that it was a problem. The teacher clearly stated that we as good citizens would be doing well to use these sheets that had been printed or faxed or copied on just the one side so we didn’t cut down as many trees.

    How hard would it be for a class to have notebooks at the front of the class that the teacher could easily say ‘these are scrap papers that if you need you are free to use. It is better to use papers already provided than to go out and buy something new’. Also, what is stopping the teacher from tearing out the papers and using them loose like we did in school?

    Maybe you can find a daycare that would like what you have but I understand the sentiment.


  • I send used items to school with the kiddo all the time. They just use them “in class” rather than sending stuff home. He’s also in elementary, so maybe that makes a difference. *shrugs* I just know the teacher has always been grateful to get anything I send.

    I know my son has brought home stacks of pages he’s colored on that had something printed on the other side, and I don’t mind a bit. It helps to keep him occupied and out of trouble, and that’s never a bad thing. It sucks that you were treated that way over trying to help out.


  • Jen R
    March 16
    11:56 am

    The “officials” at the school may say it’s against policy, but I know the teachers in my kids school take anything and everything they can get. I took some old Cat in the Hat library books to the teachers and asked if they could use them, I thought there was going to be a fight to see who got them. You might want to try asking a few teachers (not the school) and see if they want them for the class room.


  • KCfla
    March 16
    12:10 pm

    Let’s face it, some people’s definition of ‘gently used’ would be someone else’s definition of ‘garbage’. Someone might think ‘okay, there’s a page missing from this story book but it doesn’t really matter’ when in fact it might to the kid reading it and trying to understand the story

    CindyS is correct. At least that’s what I’ve been told by my best friend who’s been a teacher for 20+ years. Schools have to draw a line somewhere. Unfortunately, this is the easiest place to draw said line.

    However- as some others have said- teachers are always willing to take a look at stuff they could possibly use. Elementary teachers are always looking for crayons, paper for art projects, etc. They don’t really care so much if it’s *gently used*. It’s better than them having to shell out some of their own hard earned money on classroom supplies ( which they do- OFTEN!). Or to wait to see if a parent actually sends in the stuff requested. Especially in this economic climate, it’s very likely that there are students who’s parents can’t afford basic supplies- much less extras.


  • I agree…talk to the teachers. I’ll bet many would take the ‘gently’ used over nothing at all. And my kids used to bring home used papers all the time. I never thought anything of it other than ‘Thank God they’re recycling’ paper. The other side of a piece of paper is perfectly useful.

    I think so much of that mind set is parental. Our children could give a crap if something is used. Until we teach them that unless it’s ‘new or shiny’ it’s not perfect.


  • Oh trust me, I will find a way to donate these supplies to someone who will appreciate them and use them.

    It will be a bit harder and take longer, because my kids are in college and high school and I don’t know any of the current teachers at the elementary school, so right now I wouldn’t even know who to approach with this.

    But I’m still taken aback by the ‘official’ school policy–from where I sit, it would make more sense to educate the parents, ffs!


  • Emmy
    March 16
    1:45 pm

    I dunno…maybe depends on the school? In addition to my son’s (second grade) tuition, I had to pay an activity fee that covered the cost of art supplies and field trips. I’d be royally pissed if I paid a fee and found out that he was using someone’s leftovers instead of the new things I paid for. They can quit charging me several hundred dollars a year if they want to use donated items.


  • Sam
    March 16
    1:58 pm

    I have a church-going friend that takes our stuff at the end of the school year. They use it for the kids room.

    I have also thought of a women’s shelter. The last time I had stuff though, I called and they had a full room/whatever storage they had. I’ll try again sometime.



  • If you have no line of info on how to find out about individual teachers, you could possibly see if there’s a local MOMS Club chapter in your area — those ladies will probably be able to hook you up with plenty of places to donate gently used items. I always wonder where the best place to send stuff is, too. I want it to be used some MORE, not just thrown in the trash. Not that any paper or art supplies make it out of our house alive… Though I’m going to have to quit letting kid #1 color on the backs of my editing drafts. She can read now!


  • AL, I teach Kindergarten. I need those kinds of materials in the worst-est way. 🙂 Especially pencils (egads, the sharpener must be part bull mastiff, considering how it chews instead of sharpens.)

    Sadly, too many of my kids come to school with nothing, and the parent’s attitude is, “If you want my kid to have them, then YOU buy it for them!” Your eyes would bug out if you knew how much teachers spend out of their own pocket for school supplies, etc., for their classrooms and students.

    If there’s a community bulletin board at your market, post a note that you’re giving away those goods to whomever wants them. FCFS. I promise you won’t have to wait long for an answer. 🙂


  • Here’s my take…they don’t need to distribute the items to kids. I’d point that out. The school system we are in, things like markers, crayons, pencils go into a ‘community’ catch all and when kids need crayons, they go get them. When they need markers or a new note pad, they go get them.

    Why don’t you try contacting a local shelter, a church, or YMCA after school care group? Even a children’s hospital.


  • Anon76
    March 16
    4:33 pm

    Ya know, some charities have the same type of system when it comes to used clothing for kids. Like they all should look as if they’d come freshly from the store.

    Now I can understand that when it comes to school clothes, but dang, what about play clothes. Cuz we all know that the only way to keep school clothes in good condition is to also supply play clothes.

    And yes, it is a fact of life that children are often cruel to each other, but that will happen regardless. It will happen to the rich kids as well as the poor. A mouth full of braces (pricey) will recieve as much taunting as a school lunch card (determined by low income).

    So when do we step in as adults and say “there is a need, and it MUST be fulfilled, or our kids will suffer for the lack”?

    Sadly, I don’t think any time soon.


  • Samantha
    March 16
    6:18 pm

    I’d second or third? whoever said contact a teacher directly.
    My daughter’s school was the same way, the school couldn’t accept the items but the teachers would fight over them. Our school gives allotments to the grade levels, with that allotment they have to provide all the school supplies for every student in every class in that grade, no kid is asked to bring anything at the beginning of the year.
    By Christmas the teachers are out of money and supplies and start asking for things like tissues and paper towels because that comes out of the grade money too and all those January colds decimate the stock. I’ve supplied not only used stuff from around the house they could use but also brought in my own craft items (special scissors and the like) to be borrowed. I also tend to hit up the dollar stores and clearance sections looking for anything they could use.


  • Marianne McA
    March 16
    7:32 pm

    Not in the US, but I’d agree – if the school won’t take them, for whatever reason, some other youth group will be delighted to get them.
    I know on our local Freecycle we get requests from voluntary groups from time to time, so that might be an easy way to find a recipient.


  • If the schools won’t take them, drop ’em off at a women’s or children’s shelter. We take stuff to both all the time. I’m one of those coupon divas who gets groceries and stuff for free all the time so anytime I see a good sale for school or art supplies, I’ll buy a basket full and take it to the abuse shelters or homeless shelters or even the after school programs like Boys & Girls club.


  • Julia Sullivan
    March 16
    9:02 pm

    Schools do not have the time to sort useful donations from trash. It’s got nothing to do with “political correctness” and everything to do with the fact that people who donate to organizations that accept donations frequently drop off completely unusable garbage.


  • katieM
    March 16
    11:11 pm

    I’m a teacher and I tell you we don’t turn down notebooks and crayons, the kids do. They want new and shiny all the time. They even throw their own things away when they think something better is out there. My students come to school with no paper, pencils, folders, binders, or lunch money. They all look at me to provide their school supplies, and when I contact parents the response is always “I gave supplies at the beginning of the year!” A child will throw away or break a half used pencil rather than sharpen it and then look at me for a new pencil.

    I have over 100 elementary aged students and I average $10 per kid each year because the parents won’t do it and the kids just throw usable things away.


  • Las
    March 17
    12:18 am

    I agree that asking teachers directly would be your best bet–women’s shelters are a good idea too.

    Another idea is to donate to a parochial school that teaches kids from lower-economic areas. Things might have changed since I was in school, but back then tuition barely covered teachers’ salaries, if that, and my schools took whatever donations they could get.


  • Lorraine
    March 17
    1:37 am

    Yep on the teachers…I’ve never met one who would refuse school supplies. It’s better than them paying for it.

    You may want to see if you have any neighbors with school age kids, they may either want the supplies or know a teacher who does.

    I’ve run into this problem when I wanted to give away furniture, like perfectly good couches or dining sets. Since most charities only have one man per truck, they’ll only accept things that one person can lift. It’s almost impossible to give them away.


  • Laura
    March 17
    5:00 am

    Don’t forget about senior centers and nursing homes-they also have crafts groups and art classes, and I bet they’d be glad for donations.


  • I had a bunch of mostly new notebooks (some of which I’d had since college), and several new packages of pencils (went crazy at a office supply store sale). When a friend of mine started working at a school in what I know to be a rural/low income area, I asked if she would have them. She was so thankful when I sent them. 🙂 I saw on CNN that one school was having students bring toilet paper. I would think in these times they should be happy to get whatever they can, because many parents can’t afford things.


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