Tea Drink in Lunchbox Lands Student in Hot Water

A Newport Beach mom says her son was disciplined after school officials found kombucha, a fermented tea drink that contains trace amounts of alcohol, in his lunchbox. A school district spokeswoman disputes the claim.

ORANGE COUNTY, CA -- Be careful what you pack in your kid's lunch.

A Newport Beach mom alleges her 11-year-old son signed a five-day suspension form after school officials found his lunchbox contained a glass bottle of kombucha tea, a fermented drink containing 0.05 percent alcohol, tea sugar, bacteria and yeast.

On her blog FreshandFreeinOC, Leslie G. said Ensign Intermediate School officials treated her boy "as a criminal. ... My son, an honor student ...apparently [was] labeled an alcoholic that day."

However, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District insists no disciplinary action was taken against the seventh-grader.

Laura Boss, district spokeswoman, said the boy was called into the school office, a routine procedure after other students tipped off a school resource officer that the boy might have alcohol in his lunchbox.

"No disciplinary action was taken and the student was not suspended," Boss told Patch. "This was a new circumstance with a substance that the school had not encountered before so they did proceed with a routine discovery process."

Although Boss said the student was not suspended, his mother insists he was interrogated and punished for having kombucha in his backpack.

"There was a police officer there who informed him drinking this beverage is against the law," Leslie G. wrote. "And [someone] talked to him about drinking and medications and asked him right out if he takes any pills also!"

The day after the kombucha incident, the boy and his mom met with the school principal, who apparently apologized for the way the situation was handled. But Leslie G. said she remains troubled: "I am still upset, what if my son gets teased now? What if he gets treated as a troubled kid from now on?"

Boss said the school district will "research programs that would emphasize a more nurturing approach to the discovery process and avoid overly aggressive practices when dealing with the discipline process.

"The persons involved mistakenly believed that Kombucha had an alcoholic content," Boss said. "Although it is possible that it may; apparently in this case it did not."

Kombucha lovers, including Leslie G., tout the drink as a healthy alternative that provides energy and aids digestion and detoxification. Naysayers say kombucha can ferment in the bottle unless it is refrigerated, bringing its alcohol content to the level of some beers.

Ron Sheehan October 17, 2012 at 07:23 PM
If you leave grape juice or orange juice out it will begin to ferment. It will soon contain alchohol. This is why the kids are dumber and dumber. They worry about ants while the elephants go free.
John OConnor October 17, 2012 at 08:26 PM
I'm from Kentucky .....It looks like one of my grandpa's moonshine jars! Come on............Mom ............ your child can't get through the school day without this WONDER TEA? Drink it at home with your child ........ Is it really necessary to take it to school in a glass jar? To cause all of the suspicion of the GLASS JAR FULL OF ?? Some people like DRAMA. Stop wasting valuable school time on such non-sense. Follow the rules.
basketpam October 17, 2012 at 09:25 PM
Actually I don't know which adults here used their brain cells less in this situation. First of all, WHY would ANY parent send such an odd, weird beverage and in a GLASS jar of all things in their child's lunch? Next, I also didn't see much restraint or common sense used by the administration at this school either. I know those of you under the age of 40 don't know any different when it comes to the behavior of adults at a school but things were handled SO differently AND with so much more common sense years ago. Everything wasn't considered a national crisis. The internet has contributed to that problem. It is NOT a necessity in life that EVERY issue that occurs EVERY day be debated online. Who puts all this stuff on there all the time anyway? What we see with EVERY problem in schools today is Barney Fife extremism, NOT Andy logic and common sense. Kids were treated like kids and not a threat to national security or the continuation of our society. All I know is that if the 1st school shooters in 1999 wanted to ruin schools AND childhood for all those in our society from that point on they succeeded. Both childhood and school systems have never been the same sense that day. Every infraction is treated as a major felony, nothing resembling individual thinking or freedom has been allowed and childhood as my generation and those before me knew is only a thing of fables and family stories. Where will it end?
William Popp October 17, 2012 at 09:26 PM
I hate to say it but the jar looks like a filled Urine specimen jar.
1BrianWorkman1 October 17, 2012 at 10:06 PM
WISE UP!! Rules R Rules & No quarter will be given in enforcement of the Rules!!


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