The family of a Long Island student is suing his high school after administrators punished him for bringing hot peppers to lunch.
The mother of Nick Lien, a 10th grader at Centereach High School, says her family has a healthy appreciation for spicy food.
“I eat hot food. My family eats hot food,” Nick’s mom, Sharon, told CBS New York. “It’s just in our blood.”
So imagine Sharon’s confusion when she was summoned to school over a food item her family regularly consumes.
“I ran to the school to wonder why. I didn’t know what it was,” Sharon 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.”
Nick had brought ghost peppers to school and made the mistake of allowing his less-spicy-tolerant classmates to try them.
“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,” Nick described. “So they all tried a piece.”
Bhut Jolokia, also known as ghost pepper, is one of the hottest chili peppers on the planet, measuring in at over 1,000,000 units on the Scoville scale. Nick buys them online, three for $12. In comparison, the jalapeño pepper measures in at anywhere from 2,500 to 8,000 units.
Unfortunately his classmates couldn’t handle the heat.
At least two of his buddies had to go see the nurse, red-faced and complaining of stomach pains and fiery tongues.
“One ran to go get milk. Two were standing trying to fume it out and then they went to the nurse. They aren’t mad at me but they were in the moment,” Nick told the New York Post.
Subsequently, administrators issued Nick the option of two days of after-school detention, or one day of in-school suspension.
“I was told that it’s equivalent to giving someone LSD,” Nick said. “I was shocked, because I didn’t realize that giving someone a pepper could get me into as much trouble as I was in.”
The Liens’ attorney asserts the school overstepped their boundaries in attempting to regulate the type of foods a student can bring to lunch.
“Students’ rights cannot be violated by dictating to them what they can and can’t bring in for lunch, so it’s an outage,” the family’s lawyer Ken Mollins said.
Despite ghost peppers already beginning to appear at fast-food restaurants like Wendy’s and Jack in the Box, the district superintendent has stood firm saying the peppers pose a risk to students.
With summer break fast approaching, Nick says he fears serving the detention will affect his grades.
“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,” Nick claimed.
CBS New York notes there are no state laws prohibiting students from bringing peppers to school.