Skittles: The Gateway Candy

Skittles: The Gateway Candy
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2008

It just doesn't do to break the rules, especially when you're an elected office holder.

We've all heard about the elected official who was recently stripped of his office after purchasing an illicit item. He was no longer able to hold that office, was humiliated in front of his peers, laughed at by his enemies, and his family name was sullied in the national news.

I'm not talking about New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who shamed himself and his family, by paying for a $1,000-per-hour hooker, after making a name for himself by putting other prostitutes in jail. Not former Attorney General Eliot Spitzer who was forced to resign by a bunch of so-gleeful-it's-frightening Republicans who hated Spitzer for putting the thumbscrews on their buddies on Wall Street.

I'm talking about eighth-grade honors student Michael Sheridan, of New Haven, Connecticut, who landed himself into some hot water by buying – horror of horrors! – a bag of Skittles.

"Skittles" is not a new slang term for crack, pot, or heroin. It's the brand name of the rainbow-colored candy with dozens of different flavors and styles, including the new, limited edition ice cream flavor, which I blatantly flog in the hopes that the fine folks at Mars Snackfoods will send me a few bags.

For committing such a heinous act at Sheridan Communications and Technology Middle School ("Go Eagles!"), Michael was barred from an honors student dinner, suspended from school for a day, and removed as student body vice president. Michael's unidentified dealer was also suspended for a day.

School officials first became suspicious when Michael's name began appearing on FBI reports as "Client 10."

"There are no candy sales allowed in schools, period," school spokesperson Catherine Sullivan-DeCarlo told the New Haven Register.

In other words, if Michael hadn't purchased the candy, it would be okay. If Michael's mac daddy had just given him the candy, and then borrowed $.50 after school, there wouldn't have been a violation. Michael could have come to school with a shopping bag full of Skittles and shoved his head in to eat them, and the school couldn't have done anything about it. But God forbid one kid hands another kid some pocket change. That changes everything.

"It's too much. It's too unfair," Michael's mom, Shelli, told the Register. "He's never even had a detention."

After a national outcry against this blatant overreaction, it appears that school superintendent Reginald Mayo may have intervened, restoring a glimmer of common sense to an American school system plagued by Zero Tolerance.

By Thursday, the hallowed halls of SCTMS was restored to normalcy. Mayo met with principal Eleanor Turner and Michael's parents, after which Turner expunged Michael's record, as well as his mac daddy's (or is that snack daddy?). Michael was also restored to his post as class vice president. (Sadly, there are no reprieves when you're governor.)

"I am sorry this has happened," Turner said in a written press statement. "My hope is that we can get back to the normal school routine, especially since we are in the middle of taking the Connecticut mastery test."

Mastery test? The biggest test of the Connecticut school year? This is what puzzles me: wouldn't you want one of your smartest students to actually do well here? Don't you want the kids who offset the slower kids' scores to actually be present, rather than serving a one day suspension "in the middle" of the most important test your students will take all year?

In Turner's defense, she was only following the rules the school system laid out in 2003, when they banned all candy sales to improve school wellness. As someone who used to work in public health, I can certainly appreciate that. But it's more than a knee-jerk overreaction when you strip a young man of his office and publicly humiliate him, just because he bought a bag of candy from his hand-to-hand man.

In an attempt to defend the principal's actions, Mayo said that Turner only wanted to keep students safe.

From what? Tooth decay? Raging gun battles between rival candy dealers fighting over their turf? Is Skittles the next gateway drug? Where will it all lead? Popping Smarties during gym class? Huffing Milky Ways after lunch? Freebasing Mr. Goodbars in the bathrooms?

Principal Turner needs to relax a bit and put it it into perspective. At least Michael wasn't buying the same kind of candy Elliot Spitzer enjoyed at $1,000 a pop. You'll catch something, but it sure ain't cavities.

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