Sunday, May 28, 2006

Student Suspended For Sharing Caffeine Gum

When I first saw the title of this story from Lower Burrell, Pennsylvania, I thought that it was one of the more idiotic administrative decisions that has come down the pike in recent years. And then I took a look at the story itself:
A middle school student was suspended for three days for sharing chewing gum because it contained caffeine, school officials said.

The girl, whose name and age were not released, gave another Huston Middle School student Jolt gum. The gum is "a stimulant that has no other redeeming quality," said Amy Palermo, schools superintendent.

Products acting as a stimulant are prohibited and possessing them is grounds for disciplinary action, and the suspension was mainly based on the girl's decision to share the gum, she said.

"What if the gum had been given to a student with a heart condition?" Palermo said Thursday.

The school has soda machines, but they aren't turned on during school hours and drinks containing caffeine aren't sold in the lunchroom.

Jolt is manufactured by GumRunners LLC of Hackensack, N.J., and is marketed as a caffeine-energy gum.
One of the things that I've learned from my own classroom experience is how teenaged students often become "classroom lawyers." That is to say, they've become experts at "splitting hairs" in an attempt to evade the consequences by saying that the disciplinary guidelines don't apply to them in their particular circumstance.

For example, it's very common to catch a student in class munching a piece of candy. When caught by the teacher, they'll sometimes say that the rules forbid chewing gum, but don't say anything about candy.

I wonder if this was what the young lady who was distributing the caffeine-laced gum was doing. On
their website, Jolt Gum boasts that "2 pcs of Jolt Gum= 1 cup of coffee."

Clearly, this product's chief (perhaps only) marketing "hook" is the fact that it is loaded with caffeine.

Since using "
NoDoz" and other caffeine stimulates clearly violate school policy, I suspect that the students involved were indeed attempting to get "a little insurance" should they be caught.

Was suspending the student for three days an overreaction? That's for the community's elected school board to decide.

But in any case, I think that it would be wise for the district to amend its policies in order to clear-up any doubt.
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