Buzz banned? Not without a squawk | AspenTimes.com

Buzz banned? Not without a squawk

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer

A possible districtwide ban on caffeinated beverages aroused a number of Aspen High School students ? and a teacher or two, as well ? to protest at Monday night’s Aspen School Board meeting.

A group of 25 students, including representatives of the AHS Student Senate, turned out to argue against a proposed halt to soft-drink sales on school property. The ban was suggested on Sept. 9 by members of the District Accountability Committee’s subcommittee on health and wellness, resulting in the cancellation of a proposed coffee bar at Aspen High.

After a brief debate at the Sept. 9 meeting, the school board decided that caffeinated drinks should not be sold to students during the school day. Though board members also discussed halting soft-drink sales at athletic competitions, the group decided to allow Coke and coffee sales at these events to continue “for now.”

The board also specified that they would not restrict teachers’ coffee breaks, or even confiscate beverages from student lunches. Members agreed caffeinated products brought to the school from a local convenience store would be allowed.

Though caffeine still has a place on the Aspen public schools campus, students are worried that a ban on caffeine sales could lead to a possible Pepsi prohibition or a Coke cutoff.

AHS provides its students with an “open” lunch period, allowing them to leave school grounds and venture into town, but some administrators have previously recommended expanding school amenities to encourage students to stay on campus. One AHS student who attended Monday’s meeting remarked that a ban on caffeine sales wouldn’t allow administration to keep a closed campus.

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“Taking this away, I know it’s going to encourage kids to leave,” she told the board.

But the biggest problem with a halt in caffeine sales would be the absurdity of denying legal adults their right to buy a soda or cappuccino, AHS senior Lizzie Suitor told the board. Suitor pointed out that she and her 18-year-old classmates have the legal right to buy cigarettes or pornography, or serve in the armed services. Revoking a student’s right to buy a Coke when so many other, more harmful vices are available would be laughable, Suitor said.

“With a rule passed preventing us from making our own decisions … it defeats the purpose of the school [mission statement]. We should be able to make our own decisions,” she said.

AHS student Bescha Deane said that, though banning sugary, caffeine-packed drinks at Aspen Middle and Aspen Elementary schools would be a responsible action, AHS students should be left to make up their own minds.

“I do believe that, in the high school, it should be your decision,” Deane said.

A mother speaking on behalf of her high-schoolers also pointed out that caffeine, though considered a problem at other school districts across the country, can be a big money maker for Aspen High. If Coke and coffee are no longer sold at high school sporting events, the AHS Booster Club budget could suffer more than the caffeine-deprived students.

“I know from talking with the Booster Club that they make more money from drinks than anything else,” she said. “We’d be shooting ourselves in the foot.”

The school board ended Monday night’s discussion with the promise to resolve the caffeine issue quickly. Reno said the DAC health and wellness committee would be asked to provide a recommendation to the board on a possible caffeine ban in the next few weeks, giving the group a chance to review more pro- and anti-caffeine studies from health experts.

Suitor said she and the members of the AHS Student Senate would like the chance to review the same materials to present their side of the caffeine debate.

“They say coffee stunts your growth,” the 6-foot-tall Suitor laughed, “but I’ve had a cup of coffee every day since …”