Ignorance about Kombucha is nothing new, even in the 21st century. We have been alienated from traditional, fermented foods by design because they are expensive to produce commercially and difficult to store in warehouses for weeks, therefore less profitable for the conglomerates that control the mainstream food supply. Non-inebriating fermented drinks have an even more troublesome path to acceptance. Kombucha is the modern pioneer in this endeavor, often paying the PR price for our society’s unfamiliarity with human nutritional history. The 2010 Kombucha Recall / Withdrawal is one example, and now we have another.
As first reported by Sarah at The Healthy Home Economist, a 7th grade student in the Newport Mesa School District in Southern California was suspended because his mother packed Kombucha in his lunchbox.
The incident began on Tuesday October 9th, 2012, when an unidentified school official confiscated the boy’s Kombucha because it was in a glass bottle. The next day, he was removed from classes without parental notification, held in the Vice Principal’s office and apparently interrogated, threatened and bullied by school officials and at least one uniformed police representative, according to his mother’s blog post.
As she found out after her son returned home, the Vice Principal told the child that he was being suspended for bringing alcohol to school, pulled his “problematic” school history report and discussed transferring him out of the school. When turned over to the uniformed police representative, the child was told the drink was illegal (it was not), subjected to specific questioning regarding what medications he is taking and subsequently threatened with enrollment in Alcoholics Anonymous for Kids. He was then forced to sign a 5-day suspension notice, a terse call was made to the mother by the Vice Principal informing her of the discipline being enforced and he was sent home immediately.
It’s important to note at this point that the mother specifically identifies the bottle as a Bucha Live Kombucha Guava-Mango flavor in this comment below her article. Bucha is an “all ages” Kombucha that is specially formulated to remain under .5% alcohol. As seen in the picture below, the label clearly states that the beverage has less than .5% alcohol, which is plainly not an “alcoholic beverage” according to Federal Law (see page 15 here) and is therefore perfectly legal for any age individual to possess and consume. The school officials’ inability to correctly read a label and subsequent misinterpretation of the laws is sadly ironic considering how random the alcohol percentage limits are in the first place. There was nothing illegal about the beverage and no reason to come to that conclusion.
After repeated attempts to schedule a meeting with the Principal were rebuffed, the mother was finally granted the opportunity to meet with the Vice Principal, but the meeting did not go well, leaving the mother “feeling ridiculous, confused, outraged, ridiculed and blamed,” and the Vice Principal downplayed the incident.
That’s when she turned to Sarah Pope, who placed a call to the Principal. At that point, it appears the school began to take the situation seriously, had discovered their mistake and started backpedaling in earnest.
Both Sarah and the mother, who was finally granted a meeting with the Principal on Friday, October 12 (3 full days after the incident began), reported that the Principal portrayed the incident as no big deal after the fact, denying that any discipline had been instituted.
By that afternoon, the school district had issued a press release stating that, “No disciplinary action was taken and the student was not suspended,” yet the mother notes that her son was forced to sign a 5-day suspension notice. It’s also curious that they claim no disciplinary action was taken when the child was pulled from classes, interrogated, vilified and then sent home.
They further state that “a substance on campus containing any level of alcohol content is a violation,” yet there have been no reported instances of confiscated fruit juice, soy sauce, yogurt or coca cola at the school, all of which contain trace alcohol similar to this Kombucha brand and well below the legally allowed limits. The release offers no apology, admits no wrongdoing and promises no further investigation of the events or the officials involved to determine the appropriateness of their actions, a troubling trifecta of denial.
There is one other note that is particularly bothersome in the way this situation played out. The Kombucha bottle was confiscated at lunch time on Tuesday. The child was not brought to the Vice Principal’s office until Wednesday. Excuses for not notifying the parents before taking disciplinary action become more difficult to imagine based on that timeline. The school officials appeared to have ample time to contact the mother and set up an appropriate forum for discussing the issue. They also appeared to have ample time to investigate Kombucha Tea and re-examine the bottle to confirm their initial and incorrect assumptions.
These steps could have prevented a traumatic experience for a young child in their care. These officials chose to shoot first and ask questions later, and for this they deserve investigation. If their actions are not in violation of the policies of the school district, the school district needs to re-examine their policies and make the appropriate changes to reflect parent’s and children’s rights.
The family’s remedies for this unfortunate incident may still include legal avenues, though they have made no statements regarding a lawsuit at this time. The mother does mention in this comment that her son has taken interest in starting a Real Food Club at his school as a means of making the best of a bad situation, which could offer badly needed education in this arena to serve not only the students, but the faculty and administration as well, so that incidents such as this one don’t occur in the future.
valtrNovember 29, 2013 at 5:52 am
Welcome to our society!!!!
Full of social working idiots!
EstherNovember 22, 2013 at 9:33 pm
Unfortunatly, this is not the only way schools have stepped out of bounds of late. Another unfortunate is that legal action seems to be the only way to resolve these issues as the stance of all government employees is to deny everything at all times.
I hope the family does take some type of legal action, if for no other reason than to help in the afforts to stop schools from thinking they get to overstep parents in the choices that we make for our children and there well being.
VashtiSeptember 19, 2013 at 2:26 am
I can not get my head around this. The poor child. My whole household lives on Kombucha. We make it at home and is probably over 5% 😉 but I’ll tell you what… my kids are NEVER sick, are in great health, have no weight problems and always choose healthy alternatives to the sodas and juices that schools sell in their dinner halls.
Robin RichardsApril 10, 2016 at 1:57 pm
I applaud you a s parents for educating your children on the health benefits of good foods, instead of loading them up with high fructose corn syrup and other toxins. I wish I had discovered it earlier in life, but am so grateful for learning the benefits of clean eating and drinking kombucha.
JustinSeptember 16, 2013 at 5:56 pm
It is ridiculous how authoritative figures can jump to such measures so quickly on such little basis. Anybody who takes even a cursory look at kombucha should realize it’s a health drink, or at the very least non-intoxicating. Hopefully there does indeed end up being some kind of remedy for the family.
Janeen SmithAugust 13, 2013 at 5:36 am
Have been off my Kombucha and feeling the effects of it. Saw an article by Food Matters a few weeks ago and they highly praised Kombucha. So just ordered my mushrooms to get back in the swing of my daily regime of Kombucha. Thanks Hannah for keeping us updated!
ZanyduckMay 29, 2013 at 5:26 am
I am new to Kombucha – we are on our 4th batch and are loving it! I have been asked how it is different from fermented beverages that do contain alcohol. I have not had time to figure that out/research the topic and would be grateful for any info you could provide! I shall gladly pass on whatever you are willing to share. Then we can revel in the loss of ignorance and not dwell on ugly taste of injustice! 🙂
DavidMarch 15, 2013 at 4:08 pm
Yet another one of many reasons parents are removing their children from public education in droves. Mass incompetence at the administrative level. So happy to have finished all our 4 sons’ education at home. One of the best family decisions we ever made! Keep ’em home and they will learn more AND make their own ‘bucha!
Debbie Deal McGeeNovember 27, 2012 at 4:58 pm
If ANYONE subjected my child to this kind of treatment especially not even knowing what they were talking about….I would have made several phone calls….the first to the local news to come interview me for the 6:00. Second would be to my attorney to see how many freedoms were taken away from my child, and to promise the idiot Vice Principle that we’d be having a conversation in a courtroom soon to come. I don’t think there is ENOUGH the administrators could do to make this right to my child. An apology from the Vice Principle in front of the entire school to my child would be the 1st prerequisite!
Staci Higgins Martin via FacebookOctober 17, 2012 at 11:12 am
D’oh! I guess you did…sorry, should have scrolled down, you did see this 😉
MikaOctober 16, 2012 at 4:04 pm
My children have been teased and mocked on a few occasions for drinking Kombucha which i had packed for their school/summer camp. Other kids saying that they were bad for drinking alcohol and I am a bad mother for getting them drunk. It was a surprise to me that people see this incredible health beverage as a bad thing. Crazy
Jorge Cunha via FacebookOctober 16, 2012 at 2:27 pm
Can you believe these aholes?
David Hartley via FacebookOctober 16, 2012 at 8:17 am
Fact is, public schools are unsafe for any child we care about. Not because of other students, but because of the fascist politics of the education system and the drones they breed and hire!
Jeniffer Alburquerque via FacebookOctober 16, 2012 at 8:07 am
This is outrageous! Alcoholics Anonymous for Kids?? Really?? Then, I have to go to Alcoholics Anonymous for adults because I am addicted to kombucha! I crave it and love it!
Plow Mule via FacebookOctober 16, 2012 at 7:41 am
They busted my friends wife in MS for plain apple cider. Said the Sheriff, twas moonshine. IGNORANCE!
Jen Weidner via FacebookOctober 16, 2012 at 7:33 am
Sheesh will bullying ever end.
Deidre Lin via FacebookOctober 16, 2012 at 7:31 am
Great write-up Hanna! I shared this on my blog last week too and responded on the mother’s blog. I’m appalled at the bullying the student and mother received by the entire school system!
Julie Main Schnatterly via FacebookOctober 16, 2012 at 7:29 am
Unreal. I am outraged.