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Cobb County, Georgia Superior Court Judge Robert D. Leonard II, in a blistering decision, banned the elf, a stuffed toy that serves as a lookout for Santa around the world.
Santa Claus may have to find a new way to spy on children in Cobb County, Georgia after a blistering court decision banning the Elf on the Shelf in homes throughout the area.
The order—delivered in jest via Twitter—was “my gift to tired parents,” said Superior Court Judge Robert D. Leonard II.
The elves, he wrote, “represent a distraction to school students and a risk to the emotional health and well being of Cobb’s young children.”
“Given the risks posed to our most vulnerable children,” he continued, “coupled with covid and supply chain issues, the Court has no choice but to BANISH all Elves on Shelves from Cobb County.”
14.5 Million Elves ‘Adopted’
The Elf on the Shelf, a long-limbed stuffed toy with a mischievous (or, some might say, creepy) expression, purports to be a friendly messenger from the North Pole, tasked with keeping tabs on children to determine whether they belong on Santa’s “nice” list.
“The elf will watch us during the day, report to Santa at night, and in the morning before kids wake up, the elf flies back from the North Pole and lands on a different spot in the house,” the toy’s co-creator Chanda Bell told CNBC last year. “They move around the house, they engage with families, hopefully they bring lots of joy and lots of fun.”
Since the toy’s creation in 2005, more than 14.5 million elves have been welcomed into homes worldwide (they are not purchased, Bell said, but “adopted”). Each night in December, millions of parents move the elf from place to place for their children to discover in the morning. The ritual was meant as a “simple game of hide and seek,” Bell said, though the advent of social media has led to a proliferation of increasingly complicated setups for elf placement.
While the elf has millions of loyalists, a lot of parents also loathe the thing. Simply moving the toy to a new location every night can be an aggravating task for overworked and tired adults, Leonard said—and if the ritual is skipped, all hell can break loose.
“Inexplicably,” he wrote, “Elves sometimes move and don’t move overnight. When these Elves do not move, it leaves our children of tender years in states of extreme emotional distress.”
Leonard recalled a “horrific incident” in his home where “three children were sent to school in tears, with one child being labeled an ‘Elf Murderer’ and accused of making the elf ‘lose his magic.’”
“The Court has no doubt that day of education was lost to everyone,” he wrote.
In his tweet, Leonard described the tradition as “tyranny” and offered to fall on his sword for parents throughout the Atlanta-area county who are eager to be free of the obligation.
“I am a public servant and will take the heat for you,” he said.
And despite the official nature of the court order, violators won’t face prosecution—or receive lumps of coal, Leonard added.
“If you love your elf, keep your elf,” he said. “No contempts.”
Kate Elizabeth Queram is a senior reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.