Always on the lookout: schools watch for new tricks like vodka-soaked candies
There is an age-old duel going on every day in schools across the United States and it could involve your kids.
It is the duel with school administrators and faculty on one side and kids on the other. Administrators like Verndale's Tom Riitters and Wadena-Deer Creek's Tyler Church are players in this sometimes silly, sometimes serious contest.
Riitters and Church have to keep their teachers alerted to various trends and gimmicks.
"Kids try to sneak things past us every day," Riitters said. "Sometimes you have to be proactive with your staff and reactive with your kids."
Riitters said it is not to the extent of bringing alcohol, tobacco or weapons to school.
"It's more of a case of how can we push the envelope, and that's kids," Riitters said.
One of the latest fads involves a hard-to-detect method of smuggling alcohol into school.
A bottle of vodka is poured over a pan full of Gummy Worms or Gummy Bears. The soft gelatin candies absorb the liquor and kids can bag the candies and walk into school with an illegal substance in their backpacks. Vodka is a difficult odor to detect and it is colorless so it has become the liquor of choice for kids trying to pull the trick off.
"It's pretty interesting stuff," Church said. "It's amazing the ingenuity these kids come up with to do things like that. I guess we haven't noticed things like that here but the more that gets out in the media, the more kids hear about that the more it's likely to happen."
WDC has a policy of no food in the class room which foils any transgressor to a certain extent. The school also has random checks that can turn up liquor, drugs, weapons and even ammunition.
Church recalled one check that revealed that a student had shotgun shell residue on his pants even though he was not carrying any shells in his pockets at the time. In a hunting community like Wadena such a discovery is not that rare which makes the need for common sense and a case-by-case basis a necessity.
Schools have to be meticulous in outlining what they will allow on school property. WDC had to change a policy regarding water bottles because colored water bottles were being used to smuggle liquor into school.
There is a new type of sour apple candy on the market in the eastern United States called "Pot Pops" that has outraged school boards and parents. The candy pop is shaped like a marijuana plant and the word "legalize" is printed on the wrapper.
"I think kids see something like that and say 'hey, that's cool, we are not doing something that's illegal but we can have fun with it and pretend we are, and to me it is just sending completely wrong message," Church said.
WDC discourages any likeness or thought of pot or drugs that is on clothing or implied anywhere.
"It puts us in a tough position because we want to have no connection with drugs," Church said. "It kind of glamorizes pot, glamorizes drugs and that's the last thing we want to do."
The Pennsylvania manufacturer of the candy is not exactly trying a new strategy for impressing kids with a dangerous product. Candy cigarettes were on the market for years. Licorice pipes have been sold in candy shops for decades.
Riitters is very familiar with candy cigarettes because his parents owned a grocery store and the cigarettes were one of their most popular items.
Riitters believes the candy cigarettes were made by subsidies of the tobacco companies to create the hand-to-mouth habit.
"They were terrible candies," Riitters said. "It was like eating the white part of the licostick, there was that big, white, nasty tongue depressor."