Skittlesgate

Jeff Kuhner

News update: School officials have decided to go easy on an eighth-grader caught purchasing contraband goods. Was it guns, drugs, or tobacco? Actually, none of the above. It was candy--and not even the hard-core kind like Snickers or M&M's, which if consumed in large quantities can really pack on the pounds (trust me, I know). It was a bag of Skittles.

For this "offense," Michael Sheridan, an eighth-grade honors student in New Haven, Connecticut, was suspended for a day, barred from attending an honors dinner, and stripped of his title as class vice president. You can read the full story here.

Following local media reports and a public uproar, Superintendent Reginald Mayo said in a statement last week that he and Principal Eleanor Turner will clear Michael's record and restore him to his student council post.

Nothing more clearly demonstrates the growing loss of common sense and proportional judgment in our nation's schools than Skittlesgate. Apparently, the New Haven school system banned candy sales in 2003 as part of a district-wide school "wellness" policy. Leaving aside whether prohibiting candy sales is something schools should be concerned about (whatever happened to teaching reading, writing and, math?--things schools aren't doing very well), buying a bag of Skittles from a classmate hardly warrants a suspension . Back in the good old days when I was an eighth-grader, suspensions were meted out for serious offenses: school violence and destruction of property, vicious bullying, and verbal abuse of teachers.

"I am sorry this has happened," Turner said in a statement. "My hope is that we can get back to the normal school routine, especially since we are in the middle of taking the Connecticut mastery test."

Turner adds that she should have reinforced in writing the verbal warnings against candy sales. In other words, a little common sense would have spared everyone--including Michael and his parents--a lot of unnecessary grief.

It's a sad commentary that district officials are focused on silly things like bags of Skittles, when real problems, such as rampant drug use, teen pregnancy, and school shootings continue to plague our classrooms.

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