Ten-year-old girl suspended for bringing peppermint oil to school

Via Jonathan Turley: "School officials have suspended a 10-year-old girl in New York for bringing peppermint oil to the John Mandracchia-Sawmill Intermediate School and giving drops to her fifth grade friends to flavor their water. The Commack School District insists that the oil 'is an unregulated over-the-counter drug.'"


  1. I’ve heard of clove oil for tooth aches (it works well, actually) but the only thing I could think of that peppermint oil would be good for is an upset stomach maybe. These kids these days are out of freaking control. Someone could have been hurt. My grandmother told them that there was a place they used to send pregnant girls and kids with breath that was too minty in the 1950s.

  2. From the superintendent who refuses to apologize:

    It’s uncontested that the child brought an over-the-counter substance to the school. It’s uncontested that she gave it to other children. We teach children from kindergarten not to do that. The reason is you may not know what allergies and what kind of problems other people have.

    If the motivation for this punishment was some hypothetical allergy then I can only imagine the penalty for showing up to school with a peanut butter sandwich.

  3. At least the punishment is nearly as trivial as the “crime” (though a well-behaved ten-year-old might well find it mortifying).

  4. Jonathan Turley is awesome. His understanding and interpretation of the Constitution is right on. Which is why he’ll never be employed by the government for any sort of oversight position.

  5. If she’d bought them each a coke, which genuinely contains an unregulated over the counter drug, no one would have looked twice.

  6. Apparently, peppermint oil is used for medicinal purposes…

    ” * Peppermint oil has been used for a variety of health conditions, including nausea, indigestion, and cold symptoms.
    * Peppermint oil is also used for headaches, muscle and nerve pain, and stomach and bowel conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.”


    While I definitely don’t agree with a suspension, imagine the angry mob of parents if one of those other children had a serious allergic reaction. We have put our school in-between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Aim your disgust at the school boards and state legislators all to willing to pander to voters with “zero tolerance” policies.

  7. Ahh, some of that sweet peppermint oil! I could hook you up, dawg! Get you a dime, right here.

    (been watching waaay to much of The Wire recently)

  8. we did the same thing in middle school several decades ago…we made our own peppermint and cinnamon toothpicks…we also brought in cinnamon oil

  9. Well, you have to get them started young, when they’re impressionable and self-conscious about their breath. The first sample is always free, of course. Then you start charging when they’re so peppermint-addled that they can’t even smell it anymore. By that time, they’re hooked. Sadly, they’ll never quite reach that initial, refreshing high again. They’ll always be chasing the peppermint dragon.

  10. …Two points:

    1) So far, there are no reported cases in the past century of a peppermint allergy.

    2) And based on what a obstinate schmuck this stuporintendant is demonstrating himself to be, I suppose Strawberry Quik or Ovaltine brings a year’s expulsion?

    Bottom Line: let the schools have their Zero Tolerance policies towards *real* drugs, but when they act without thinking against harmless substances and/or simple soporifics, fire the bastards with no appeal allowed. That’ll put an end to all this bullshit really quickly…

    1. Regarding your first point; a quick google search yields several sites with people complaining of mint sensitivity (search “mint allergies”) and only a total of 150 search results. The Superintendent, Mr. Feltman, probably did what I just did; a quick google search and looked at the first few pages, confirming that yes, it is possible for someone to be allergic to mint thus justifying the heavy handed response.

      Considering the prevalence of mint items in society, I’m pretty sure that you would know if you were allergic to mint or not by the time you could speak whole sentences.

      1. …I did the Google search as well, and what I did find was, IMO, inconclusive. Just for giggles, I contacted a couple of friends in the medical profession – one an MD starting his 20th year of practice, the other a nurse with 25 – and both stated with high confidence that out of the two or three cases where peppermint oil allergy was suspected, it turned out to be something completely different. They’re convinced claims of peppermint oil allergies are simply the result of misdiagnoses.

        …On a side note, here’s an interesting question: why is it that peanut allergies, which were almost unheard of until the mid 1980’s, have suddenly become an apparent epidemic. Have peanuts mutated to become lethal as an antipredatorial defense mechanism, or have lungs actually weakened in the past generation?

        [Ironically, I’m eating some Ritz Crackers with Honey-Roast Crunchy Skippy right now. Yum!]

    2. Actually, there are many reported cases of peppermint allergy and I am one of them. A strong peppermint toothpaste triggered it and I had terrible symptoms. I had burning from my throat to my heart, increased heart rate, sores at the corners of my mouth and my left index finger looked like it had been scalded. I researched my symptoms and peppermint allergy came up. As I had just started using the strong peppermint toothpaste, I knew that was my problem. I quit the toothpaste and returned to normal in 24 hours. All that remained was a 1 1/2 inch long dry, scaly patch of skin on the index finger, which I’d had for months. A dermatologist told me that “some people just have that.” As I was shampooing my hair with a shampoo that I’d used for months, I noticed a minty smell. It was #6 in the list of ingredients! I quit the shampoo and in two days, the dry scaly patch was gone and remains gone, six years later.

  11. In middle school (around the year 2000) I was suspended for handing a Benadryl to a friend, one that I previously picked up off the ground while still in its container. It happened while I was in the process of throwing it away, my friend was standing next to the waste basket and curiously inquired about it. The Vice Principal saw me do it, and claimed I was distributing drugs.

    She later grilled me in front of my father, himself a teacher of 26 years at the time, spewing out nonsense how I was “a delinquent, and should be placed in a alternative school with other troubled youth” (I previously never had any run-ins with the administration, and also was an honor student). Thankfully my father with his influence and tenure in the school district prevented that from happening.

    This article shows that some school administrators are only interested in weeding out the “troubled youth”, while seemingly on a constant witch hunt. Unfortunately half of those kids were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, or simply naive to their actions. Some are even set on a path through alternative schooling, making it extremely difficult to break out of the downward spiral the system creates for them.

  12. I hope they crack down on lavender scented soaps too. Those damn druggy girls and their flowery smells.

    If we have to destroy kids to save them from the unspeakable evils of narcotics then we should!

  13. Many schools, including the one my child attends, have an absolutely no food sharing policy. Nothing can be shared. Why? Allergies. If we bring in a treat for a birthday, we have to provide an ingredient list, so that parents can ensure their allergic kids don’t eat anything that does not suit. There are numerous people who are allergic to peppermint, and break out in hives from peppermint oil. Some of them sufficiently so that they cannot swallow. So there is a potential danger there.

    That said, the school should have spoken to the child, and told her not to do it again. A suspension, even an in-school suspension, is definitely an overreaction.

    1. Are there so many dangerously allergic children that it’s better to special-case sharing food, instead of special-casing the allergic children?

      That sounded a bit harsh, but I hope you get my drift – a few cases of “Stephen is really allergic to peanuts, so he could die if he eats anything that has touched peanuts: For safety’s sake, he can’t eat anything he didn’t bring himself” seems to beat a blanket “you can’t share food” wildly, in the sensibility stakes.

      (Well, apart from the “OMG! Someone has to PAY!”-reaction from the parents the day something goes wrong, yeah …)

      1. That didn’t sound harsh, you’re entirely on point.

        Now I’m going to say uncomfortable things. People with special cases and special needs should be looking out for their own special cases and special needs. Are you wildly allergic to something? Do your best to avoid it in life. You can’t expect everyone to change their lives to accommodate your situation. The people close to you? Sure. Random strangers? Even if they occasionally share a space with you? Sorry, you’re really not that special. Your rights do not supersede the rights of the larger group.

        Life is a crap shoot, something is going to kill you. Maybe it’s a tiger, maybe it’s a peanut, maybe it’s your blood pressure. In any case, Darwin was right.

        1. A F-ing Men! This whole food allergy fooforall is crazy. If your child is allergic to peanuts and mine is not my little girl gets more peanut butter cookies, and Finn or what’s it’s name can have a tofu smoothie made with “organic” soy milk and hate.

  14. @Brainspore My son’s school has a student who is allergic to Peanut Butter. The first day of school he came home absolutely terrified of Peanut Butter and kept talking about how it could kill people and he couldn’t eat it anymore, etc. They scared the hell out of him because another child, in another grade, whom he doesn’t even eat lunch with, is allergic… Absolutely insane. It was months before we could convince him that it was OK to eat Peanut Butter again … *sigh*

    Yet, knowing all of this, they didn’t teach the kids what to do if there was ever a problem. And to make matters worse, even though this kid has a deadly allergy to PB, the epi-pen MUST be stored in the nurses office and cannot be kept anywhere else. So if something were to happen, they need to drag/carry him to the nurse in order to get him help.. I can only hope there’s never a problem because I honestly think he wouldn’t make it..

    1. And to make matters worse, even though this kid has a deadly allergy to PB, the epi-pen MUST be stored in the nurses office and cannot be kept anywhere else. So if something were to happen, they need to drag/carry him to the nurse in order to get him help.

      Except there is no nurse. California, at least, cut school nurses out of the budget.

      1. From what I understand, at my old high school, the nurse was only in on Tuesdays. So God help you if you got sick any other day.

  15. I’ve always called it the “Zero Intelligence” policy. A reflection on the morons who created it, and what it’s doing to kids.

  16. OMG!

    When I was in elementary school (a looong time ago), some kids brought in peppermint soaked toothpicks to share and trade. The school rounded us all up in the library and told us it was a drug. They sent a scary letter home to every parent telling them about the dangers of peppermint oil.

    My dad rang the poison control hotline to ask if they’d heard about peppermint oil poisoning and they laughed out loud.

    I can’t believe this is still happening.

  17. Does this school also ban the use of Altoids? Those are almost exclusively sugar, chalk and peppermint oil.

  18. What the left/right controlled news is suppressing is the fact that these kids were all walking around in their Peppy-Min buzz saying, “meep! meep!”

  19. I can only imagine what would have happened to this poor girl if she had brought in Crystal Lite or sugar-free KoolAid instead.

  20. Food is an over the counter substance. Idiot superintendent declares The War on Flavor. Lunch ladies revolt. Adam Sandler updates theme song. Breath Suffers.

  21. I think perhaps there is an unknown disease that only afflicts persons in positions of authority (or perceived authority), the primary symptoms being complete loss of all common sense and overwhelming stupidity often accompanied by intense inflexibility. Similar diseases are known to infect bank administrators, police officers and of course TSA employees.

  22. Given that Celiac disease is also a life-threatening condition, I’m sure that this school has also forbidden the possession and use of all things containing gluten (off the top of my head – bread, including all-rye bread and most corn breads, pasta, cookies, cakes, pizza, licorice sticks, m&m’s, barley water, couscous, fish sticks, fried chicken, gravy, any soup with flour or barley, hot dogs, most faux-meats like veggie dogs and veggie burgers). Cause, you know, anything else would be inconsistent.

    1. Yes, celiac’s disease is dangerous, which is why food is not allowed to be shared. That’s it. No food sharing. It’s not a particularly bad rule. It’s not terribly restrictive. The kids can share food elsewhere. And personally, while my kid is not allergic I do prefer the no food sharing rule, because I know he is sensitive to certain preservatives which make him hyper. So no sharing is a nice, inclusive rule. It also has the positive side effect that you don’t have to worry about what junk your kid is eating.

  23. Now I’m going to say uncomfortable things. People with special cases and special needs should be looking out for their own special cases and special needs.

    Certainly uncomfortable, because we’re cringing at your poor reasoning. We don’t hold children fully responsible for their own well-being.

    1. “We don’t hold children fully responsible for their own well-being.”

      ten year olds are perfectly capable of understanding what an allergy is.

  24. I love how the superintendent uses the phrase “over-the-counter substance” to imply that things that don’t require a prescription are inherently dangerous. “It’s undisputed that this child brought in a thing that can be bought in a store and shared it with other students!”

  25. The better lesson would have been to just sit the kids down and tell them that if they are going to share something like this, even if it seems innocuous, to talk amongst themselves about things like allergies beforehand. But instead of teaching the kids a lesson about the importance of communication, they wound up teaching them that if they’re going to do something for fun, they have to hide from the authorities. Or at least, the kids have learned it earlier than they normally would have.

  26. In the superintendent’s defense, though, we’re talking about Commack. Its big draws were the Commack Roller Rink (gone), the Commack flea market (gone), and the Commack Motor Inn, with mirrored ceilings and heart-shaped water beds, motto: “What a way to enhance romance”. (That’s still there.)

    I’m just saying that there may not be a bevy of qualified supervisor candidates running for office.

  27. Avram, plus, the term “over-the-counter substance” has always been problematic, since it is prescription medicines that are handed to you “over the counter” by a pharmacist. The counter being a barrier.

    Everything else — from apples to zucchinis — are not “over-the-counter substances”, they are “off the shelf” (or rather “on the shelf”) items, or, as we usually call them, groceries.

    1. the term “over-the-counter substance” has always been problematic, since it is prescription medicines that are handed to you “over the counter” by a pharmacist. The counter being a barrier.

      In California, OTC drugs aren’t handed to you by the pharmacist. They’re on the drug store shelves between the condoms and the toothbrushes. The only non-prescription drugs that the pharmacist guards are things that can be turned into meth.

  28. The original article has a comment noting that two days prior to this tea-scented scandal, candy canes were given out. So essentially the bureaucrat is just throwing everything he can think of to the wall to see what sticks. Misleading people into thinking that mint is a drug, misleading people into thinking a drop of flavor is sharing food, misleading people into thinking that someone might be allergic to mint, etc.

  29. This only serves as an example of several problems in the modern world. 1. Destruction of independence. 2. Overbearing authoritarianism. 3. Mission creep. 4. Knee-jerk reactionism 5. Overly litiganous society and fear of frivolous law suits 6. Over-parenting 7. Displacement of responsibility 8. Hypochondria 9. sheepleism 10. The pussification of youth. I could go on but you get the point.

    And some problems that have been and will continue haunting humanity such as gullibility, stupidity, lying, power-madness, etc, etc.

    So at what point do we stop trying to save everybody from everything and realize that; the world has been and will continue to be a dangerous place no matter what we do, kids will be kids, people have lived here for a very long time and will continue to do so despite idiots. (Of course that is the mother of all sampling biases but my point remains valid.)

  30. Restricting a child’s freedom does not by itself make you a better principle, guardian or parent.

  31. Peanut Butter aside (it is a very common allergy, and the oil lasts FOREVER on surfaces).
    If a child has an allergy to something, shouldn’t that child (especially in middle-school) take some initiative to, oh I don’t know, NOT EAT SAID FOOD?!?

  32. This is a really cool headline and surely generates megahits, but you have to break through 2 firewalls (BoingBoing to Jonathon Turley, Jonathon Turley to Herald.com) to get to the crux.

    The “allergy” argumentation is perfectly valid, considering the litigious nature of American society.

    The last sentence displays irresponsibility on the part of the parents

    “This was a violation of our code of conduct. There’s no question about that,” Feltman said. “It’s uncontested that the child brought an over-the-counter substance to the school. It’s uncontested that she gave it to other children. We teach children from kindergarten not to do that. The reason is you may not know what allergies and what kind of problems other people have.”

    Feltman said the label on the bottle stated very clearly that it should be kept out the reach of children. “The label says ’Caution, keep out of the reach of children,’ ” he said. “Nothing could be plainer. And a 10-year-old can read that.”

    1. ..but you have to break through 2 firewalls (BoingBoing to Jonathon Turley, Jonathon Turley to Herald.com) to get to the crux.

      …awww jaybee doesn’t want to click. I know, I know… RSI is a serious problem… Also are you sure you know what a firewall is?

      The “allergy” argumentation is perfectly valid, considering the litigious nature of American society.

      An argument can be valid, but weak in such a way that its validity is next to worthless. This is one of those cases.

      Furthermore, the world laughs at the litigious nature of American society… so why should we encourage it to continue along with its destruction of concepts like personal responsibility & common sense?

      Its about time US courts set some precedent by throwing cases like this out on their ass and ordering that the guy who caused all the trouble be sacked for wasting public money.

  33. PPO is used frequently for abdominal pain and IBS, presumably for its use as a smooth muscle relaxant. We’ve had far fewer adverse events with it than the medications that are routinely used to treat these conditions, but it’s not risk free. Renal failure and bronchospasm and other serious problems have been associated with PPO although I’ve never seen it. Unfortunately, menthol (PPO) is an unregulated dietary supplement in the US so who knows how much menthol was being used by any particular child. I think the suspension was definitely overkill where a little education would have sufficed. Then again,school policy is more about CYA these days. My daughter can’t even take peanunt butter to school!

  34. You guys are saying that this principal didn’t use discretion. It sounds as if he had a very good reason for doing what he did. You just don’t agree with it. I don’t blame him for his decision, though I may not agree with the punishment involved – seems a bit extreme. Still, Zero Tolerance rules are put into play to protect the schools from law suits. If people would learn to take responsibility for their own children, the schools wouldn’t have to be so flinchy. But American parents are very keen on telling educators to mind their own business when it comes to their children. Until there’s a tragedy. Then it’s “why didn’t you DO something?” and the lawsuits come a-pouring in.

  35. How about sugar? It’s more addictive than any over the counter drug – yet you pump kids with the crap. Also, what about shoelaces? I mean – they are a weapon – a pretty good one….etc…

    In 5th grade (when I was 10) I brought a medical book on entire human development from egg fertilization to birth- and it had a picture of man and woman having sex with all appropriate medical explanations of it – and a picture of a bloody gaping twat amidst childbirth. And I went around showing the book in disbelief how many of my friends thought babies get delivered by pelicans….This was in South East Europe, mind you. You know – SECOND WORLD! (lol) They tried to warn my mother about the danger of this knowledge and understanding I had at such early age – but at least I did not get manipulated by boys into ‘kissing them down there’ in the school restroom (which happens a lot in USA) nor did I get pregnant in high school like many of those ‘innocent’ girls who did not know s*** about anything in 5th grade.

  36. All those of you criticizing this school, I have a question for you: would you exonerate the school from any liability if a child of yours was made sick as a consequence of sharing somebody else’s food?

    What this school is fighting is a principle, a measure necessary given the litigious nature of US society, not the peppermint oil per se.

    You want to blame somebody? Most of you can go in front of a mirror and chastise the individual that shows up there (the US is the only country I know where people talk about “their lawyer” like if their were talking about any other regular service provider. Insane).

  37. Since WHEN is PEPPERMINT OIL an “unregulated drug”? Give me a DAMN BREAK! PROVE IT! That girl did NOT deserve this! Instead of going after innocent children, the schools should keep vigilante about adults being child molestors or children bringing GUNS and REAL DRUGS to school! I think that family SHOULD SUE!


  38. I have heard that oil of peppermint ,when inhaled can help when you want to be alert and study for test and things. I use it and believe it works, and i don’t trust anyone who thinks it is unsafe to use. IT IS A NATURAL THING AND THE IDEA THAT NATURAL THINGS ARE DANGERIOUS WOULD SEEM TO COME FROM A CORPORATION LIKE MONSANTO OR BIG PHARMA, WHO DON’T WANT ANYTHING NATURAL IN OUR BODIES ANY LONGER. THEY ONLY WANT THINGS THAT MESS UP OUR SYSTEMS, AND I WILL PASS ON THEIR HELP…PEACE

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