Having worked in a school system, there is an inordinate pressure to see terrorism and drugs behind every tray and box, at least in some districts, and a civic duty to act like a surrogate cop, confiscate and report such acts of terror to the proper authorities. This is so unfortunate because school staff can be some of the kindest, most giving people you've ever met; but the pressure and fear comes from on high.
We see kids' lunches called non-nutritious and replaced with pink-slime nuggets or a child arrested for a plastic knife. Something similar happened this week in Newport, California when the lunch brigade noticed a boy's glass bottle (safely inside a foam sleeve) and confiscated his healthy Kombucha beverage which is comparable to apple cider.
The next day he was required to visit the Vice Principal's office where a uniformed cop was waiting there to give him the third degree. The administration claimed the drink violated the no-drugs-and-alcohol policy. The officer wrongly told the child that Kombucha was illegal and dangerous to mix with medicines or antibiotics - then asked him if and what medications he was taking.
He was interrogated and detained in the office the entire day - all the while without parental notification or representation. It gets worse . . . .
But first . . . Kombucha is nothing more than a fermented tea with benefits of probiotics, enzymes, amino acids, vitamins, and more. Many say it is detoxifying, energizing, and can prevent and help with cancer. It's slightly fizzy, tart and can be fruit flavored and sweet. Many, including more restaurants, enjoy it as a healthy alternative to beer and wine with one missing element - the alcohol!
While it can contain 0.5% ethanol alcohol (classified as non-alcoholic), the alcohol that would be produced gets fermented into acetic acid, which keeps the alcohol down and the healthy benefits up. You may remember the FDA recalling or calling for the removal of Kombucha from store shelves claiming alcohol content. This was a standard FDA M.O. of creating a scare to kick healthy beverage companies in the pocket book and, no doubt, why "Officer Daft" incorrectly claimed it was illegal - Kombucha is back on grocery shelves and can be purchased by any kid in America. You can even make this stuff cheaply at home; an easy recipe appears in Sally Fallon's (Weston A. Price) recipe book Nourishing Traditions.
There seems to be a bias against healthy, fermented products - this brings the war on drugs and schools' no-alcohol policy to an absurd level. Should school officials confiscate apple cider . . . sour kraut . . . yogurt? Someone get Jamie Lee Curtis on the horn! They don't want this kid to have a healthy intestinal tract!*
Continuing - hats off to Sarah from The Healthy Home Economist blog for not only writing the story after the boy's mother contacted her, but for also getting involved and calling the Vice Principal, who acted like nothing at all significant happened. She writes:
She notes that he was assumed guilty and punished without anyone testing for actual alcohol content. While the Principal finally retracted the suspension (without an apology), this will never undo the overreaction, emotional upheaval, humiliation, false accusation and mistreatment without parental contact. Plus, since the school quickly reported the incident to Newport-Mesa School District, the buck was passed, which means the parents and child can face further harassment even though the Principal is done with the affair.Most outrageously, the Vice Principal told the boy that he may have to transfer out of that school and that she was looking into it. She even tried to enroll him in an alcoholics class for teens! The boy ended up spending the entire day in the school office and then was suspended for 5 days for violating the school's drug and alcohol policy. The issue was also reported to the Newport-Mesa School District. Lest the school or the district deny the child was suspended or try to spin the story, the boy did indeed SIGN a 5 day suspension form.
Many parents cannot or choose not to have an alternative education lifestyle for their kids, nor should they be forced to. When children are enrolled in the public school system they are sadly, considered human resources.
But, if they are indeed considered wards of the State, then authorities should be held accountable to the fullest extent for children's treatment and safety - the burden of proof and responsibility falls on them and should be adamantly demanded if another educational experience is not possible. Of course, we can expect just the opposite.
Please consider discussing with your child these types of scenarios and what to do, so that they are not knocked off guard by abusive, ignorant authorities without any representation. School officials need to figure out that we care - we are watching, and if they shame the little ones, threaten their well-being and frighten them into oblivion, that we will shine the light on their shame, possibly at the expense of their jobs.
* There is no evidence that Kombucha can harm you while on medications. It is probiotic and at worst, would simply cancel out the effects of antibiotics - that's why doctors say to avoid yogurt while on them, but to eat plenty afterward to restore the healthy gut bacteria destroyed by antibiotics. The Officer had NO business questioning the child about personal medications, especially without a parent present.