PEKIN, ILLINOIS – The father of a Pekin Community High School student says his son was unfairly suspended from school Wednesday along with three friends for eating energy mints that school staff suspected at the time might be illegal drugs.
Jason McMichael said his 17-year-old son has never been in trouble before, but the boy was suspended from school Thursday and Friday and barred from attending the weekend’s homecoming festivities after school personnel found the four students eating chewable energy mint tablets in school Wednesday afternoon. The mints contain caffeine and other ingredients typically found in standard energy drinks.
McMichael said he received a call that afternoon from the dean’s office and was told his son and some other students had been caught eating the mints, which look like unmarked pills, which staff thought could be illegal drugs. McMichael said he was told his son was being monitored by the school nurse and that the teen had an elevated heart rate and high blood pressure.
“He’s never been in trouble,” McMichael said Friday. “He was probably just nervous.”
McMichael said he was told to come and pick up his son and that his son needed to stay home from school until the school had the tablets tested to make sure they really were energy mints, as the teens had claimed. However, by the time McMichael arrived at the school, he said he was told his son had been sent home on the regular bus.
According to McMichael, he could not believe that if the school thought his son could be under the effects of a potentially dangerous substance they would just send him home on the bus and not send him to the hospital for treatment.
The next afternoon, McMichael said that somebody from the school called to say the teens’ story had been verified, but that the suspensions still were being upheld for gross misconduct for taking an unknown product, though McMichael said the school officials admitted to him that the teens had fully cooperated when confronted about the mints.
McMichael said his son is being punished just because the school staff could not identify an energy mint, though there is nothing wrong with having energy drinks on campus.
“Now they know nothing illegal happened, but they’re still pursuing the suspension,” McMichael said.
And if the students had been on drugs, McMichael said the school did not do a good job of handling a potentially dangerous situation by sending his son home when they believed he might have a harmful drug in his system.
District 303 Superintendant Paula Davis said she cannot legally discuss
individual disciplinary issues. However, she said that students
ingesting things that look like unmarked pills would definitely prompt
school personnel to take action.
As for ensuring student safety when dealing with a situation that
involves illegal substances, Davis said the school has trained personnel
to handle that.
Per district procedure, any student suspected to be under the influence
of a drug would be taken to the school nurse – a trained registered
nurse – to monitor the student’s vital health signs, like heart rate and
blood pressure. If any signs pointed to drug use, then the student’s
case would be referred to the school’s on-campus Pekin Police Department
liaison officer to be handled according to the department’s procedures.
McMichael said he is campaigning to clear his son’s name, and more
specifically, his son’s transcript. He wants the suspension for gross
misconduct wiped off his son’s school record.