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Schools put brakes on Heelys

They say wheeled shoes are a safety hazard and cause damage to floors

OREM — The fun could end this fall for children who enjoy walking and rolling down the halls of their schools.

Many schools along the Wasatch Front have put the brakes on athletic shoes with wheels embedded in the heels.

In the shoes — the most popular brand is Heelys — kids zip down hallways and sidewalks. They injure themselves and plow into others, school administrators say.

"We had an incident at school where a student was riding their Heelys and fell back and broke their arm," said Reed Hodson, principal at Highland Elementary.

The teachers had discussed banning Heelys at the school in 2003, Hodson said, and the broken arm was the last straw.

"For a while, we said, 'You can wear the shoes but you don't skate around the building,'" Hodson said. "It didn't work very well."

Students struggled with removing (or remembering to remove) the wheels from the shoes. Last fall, the shoes were banned and the dozen or so students who had the shoes had to leave them at home, Hodson said.

Jordan School District has never allowed the wheeled shoes in schools. The reason: safety, and wear and tear on the floors, district spokeswoman Melinda Colton said.

Granite, Salt Lake City, Davis, Alpine and Nebo districts don't have specific districtwide prohibitions against the shoes, but principals can enforce rules they deem necessary to curtail annoyances.

The ban against the wheeled shoes at Spanish Oaks Elementary School is part of a general policy that covers roller skates and roller blades, said RaShel Tingey, the Spanish Fork school's principal.

Students haven't really protested, she said, because the school is carpeted.

The Ranches Academy, a charter school in Eagle Mountain, is the most recent to join the no-wheeled-shoes club. Beginning this fall, wheeled shoes are prohibited to protect the floors and to maintain the spirit of the dress code, which aims at downplaying socio-economic differences.

Heelys sell for $60 to $100.

"We've told them 'no' to the shoes, but we understand if some parent has bought the shoes anyway," said the school's director, Darren Beck. "As long as the shoes don't have the wheels, I won't inspect."

But the ban is bad news for Seth Edwards Hudson, 7, who is beginning second grade at the Ranches Academy. He said he wore his Heelys almost every day this summer.

"I think they're very fun," he said. "You have one heel and they're really fast."

Hudson's parents will make sure he complies with the new rule because they agree with the dress code. "Of course they're going to complain about it," said his father, Redge Hudson. "But my wife and I, we don't have a problem with it." The company that makes and sells Heelys recommends people use safety gear, including helmets, wrist guards, elbow pads and knee pads. Safety instructions are enclosed with each pair of shoes.

"You shouldn't be skating in school; that's been our position from the beginning," said Mike Staffaroni, president and CEO of Heeling Sports Limited, near Dallas, which reports selling about 4.5 million pair of Heelys in 60 countries — about $130 million in sales — since they hit shelves in 2000.

Staffaroni said he is puzzled by reports of Heelys damaging floors because the soles are not rubber. The wheels, after all, are plastic.

Contributing: Tiffany Erickson, Jennifer Toomer-Cook