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.
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.