CENTEREACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A bizarre lawsuit on Long Island will have parents thinking twice about what they pack in their children’s lunch.
As CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, a junior at Centereach High School is fighting his punishment, after getting disciplined for taking hot peppers to school.
Nick Lien and his mother spoke exclusively to McLogan about the incident involving bhut jolokia – or ghost peppers — which are among the hottest chili peppers on the planet.
Ghost peppers pack 400 times the mouth-numbing heat of Tabasco, and Lien orders them online – three peppers for $12.
“My friends saw that I had the new ghost pepper with me, and they all wanted to see how spicy it really was, because everybody thought that basically they could handle it and it was nothing,” Lien said. “So they all tried a piece.”
But two of Lien’s classmates left gym class, and landed in the nurse’s office with red faces, stomach pains, and burning tongues. And the next thing he knew, Lien was called to the carpet.
“I was shocked, because I didn’t realize that giving someone a pepper could get me into as much trouble as I was in,” Lien said.
Lien said he was told he was to serve after-school detention for two days, or else in-school suspension for a day.
Nick Lien’s mother, Sharon Lien, also received a call.
“I ran to the school to wonder why. I didn’t know what it was,” she said. “I asked if it was pepper spray, peppers on sandwiches, and she said it was my son brought a pepper to school – which I happen to have. We eat hot peppers, so it’s, like, no big deal.”
Ads for ghost peppers said they will “knock your socks off.” The fad has spread to ghost pepper fast food fries, chili, and burgers.
“I eat hot food. My family eats hot food,” Sharon Lein said. “It’s just in our blood.”
And the Liens were shocked and mystified when they said the school likened the peppers to psychedelic drugs.
“I was told that it’s equivalent to giving someone LSD,” Nick Lien said.
The Liens do not believe passing out peppers warrants suspension or detention.
“Students’ rights cannot be violated by dictating to them what they can and can’t bring in for lunch, so it’s an outage,” said attorney Ken Mollins.
School is out in three weeks, and Nick Lien said being suspended would be detrimental.
“All the work that we have now is all getting bunched together, and if I lose two days of school, then it’s really going to affect my grades,” he said.
But the superintendent of the Middle Country School District said she does not tolerate any action that compromises the health of their students, and said she has determined that the hot peppers do pose such a threat. She said she stands by the detention.
There are no New York state regulations yet on ghost peppers in schools.