Hot drink ban debated and explained


After selling caffeinated drinks to students against state regulations for years, Staples was forced to cease sales of all caffeinated drinks, including coffee, hot chocolate and tea, to students beginning in the 2014-2015 school year.

State regulations allow for three specific groupings of beverages in school cafeterias: milk, water and 100 percent juices. Caffeinated beverages, like those previously sold at Staples, are not on the list.

“The state directed me to stop serving coffee and hot chocolate despite the fact that I argued that our Staples students are young adults who have the capability to make their own decisions about whether or not to drink coffee and hot chocolate,” Superintendent Elliott Landon said in an email interview.

Federal funding for the free school lunch program at Staples would have been revoked had Staples continued to disregard state mandates.

Until this year, Staples knowingly defied the state’s standards by selling caffeinated hot drinks.

According to Principal John Dodig, when the state was auditing the Staples school lunch program and examining a specific student on the free lunch program, the auditors came across a purchase of coffee, which, they reminded the school system, violates state mandates.

This resulted in the removal of all caffeinated beverages from the school cafeteria, commencing at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year.

“We got caught, so we had to comply,” Dodig said.

Dodig has actively fought against the state’s rules by writing letters to the governor and speaking out in front of former Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor. Landon encourages everyone to speak up.

“I believe that parents, students, teachers and administrators should call, write, text, tweet and email all of our elected representatives to have this statute changed to permit coffee and hot chocolate to be served to high school students to protect their safety and well-being,” Landon said.

Self-titled coffee addict Jennie Blumenfeld ’15, however, doesn’t plan on speaking out.

“I would rather spend the energy on college and school work,” Blumenfeld said, adding “And it won’t work.”

Like Landon, other teachers and administration see the negative effects that this ban may have on students.

Culinary teacher Cecily Gans worries that the state’s rules show distrust in students’ decision making.

“We want to treat you guys like adults in making your own decisions,” Gans said. “And that’s where I find error.”

Landon is concerned that essentially forcing students to buy caffeinated drinks at venues like Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts and then rush to school could lead to motor vehicle accidents and needless injuries.

“I think this is a ridiculous situation and has the potential to adversely affect many of our students,” Landon said.