Source: Denver Post
Contact: letters@denverpost.com
Pubdate: November 19, 1997
Author: Cara DeGette, Special to The Denver Post

6 Year Old Busted For Candy

Nov. 19 - COLORADO SPRINGS - A first-grader who shared some of his organic lemon drops with a school buddy has been busted by administrators for distributing an unknown substance.

Seamus Morris, 6, was suspended for a half day of classes following the Oct. 29 incident at District 11's Taylor Elementary School.

John Bushey, D-11 executive director of school management, said other students reportedly "assumed" the St. Claire's brand organic lemon tarts were drugs. Bushey said the boy's resulting suspension is consistent with the district's drug policy.

"It was not something you would purchase in a grocery store, it was from a health food store," Bushey said.

Seamus' mother, Shana Morris, accused school principal Rick Gallegos of overreacting and is worried the indictment now will stick to her son's permanent record.

The fire department and ambulance rescue were called to the school after a teacher was alerted that Seamus shared the lemon tarts - from their original box - with a fellow student on the playground, Shana Morris said. Both boys' parents also were called, and, despite Morris' assurance the lemon tarts are just candy, they were urged to take their children to the hospital for tests, she said.

"It was a misunderstanding and a bit of ignorance on the principal's part, which resulted in complete hysteria," Morris said.

The lemon tarts are tan colored and are made from molasses crystals and other natural ingredients. Manufactured by Boulder based EcoNatural Solutions Inc., the candy is sold in about 2,000 health food and mass market stores nationwide, including Wild Oats Market and some King Soopers stores, said Ed Thomas, the company's manager of special operations. No other complaints about the product have been filed, he said.

"If the principal would have just smelled them, he would have gotten a nose full of lemon scent," Thomas said.

Gallegos did not return calls seeking comment. But Bushey said school administrators were not familiar with the product and were thus required to treat it as an unknown and possibly controlled substance.

D-11's drug and alcohol policy defines controlled substances as including, but not limited to, "narcotic drugs, hallucinogenic or mind altering drugs or substances, amphetamines, barbiturates, stimulants, depressants, marijuana, anabolic steroids, any other controlled substances as defined by law, or any other prescription or nonprescription drug, medicine, vitamins or other chemical substances ... " [Emphasis added. Since anything can be regarded as "a chemical substance" this means that the school regards everything as "controlled substances". This is completely insane. - PM]

Timothy Brady, adolescent and family team leader of El Paso County's McMaster Center drug treatment clinic, said he has "no knowledge" that St. Claire's organic lemon tarts are a banned substance.

While some middle and high school students occasionally are accused of trying to pass off pills and herbs as mind altering substances, Brady said he's never heard of a first-grader conspiring to pass off candy as drugs.

"Wow," Brady said when told of the accusations against the 6-year-old. "I'm stunned. I don't even know what to say."

Shana Morris said she was further infuriated when she tried to defend her son and his lemon tarts. She said district administrators responded with "scare tactics," comparing bringing candy to class with 16-year-old students bringing guns to school.

Her son initially was rattled by the incident.

Shortly afterward, Morris said she and Seamus were working on his math homework, and she complimented him on how smart he is. She said her son responded, "No, I'm not. I got suspended from school."

The boy is doing fine now, Morris said, but she is still angered by the school officials' actions.

"I can't believe these people are educating our kids," she said.


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