The parents of a Pennsylvania teen suspended from school after bringing in an alcoholic beverage said it was an honest mistake and are challenging the school district over its handling of the incident.
Kayla Ryder, 13, said she had no idea the Twisted Tea she grabbed from her family’s pantry and packed in her lunch last week contained alcohol. According to local station Fox 29, the Northley Middle School student willingly shared the drink with friends when they asked for a taste during her lunch period.
“I thought it was regular iced tea,” said Ryder, who said she’s never tasted alcohol before. “It had a different taste, but I just thought that’s how the brand tasted.”
School administrators soon learned that Ryder had brought the drink, a flavored tea with 5 percent alcohol, as part of her lunch. The teen’s parents said the innocent mistake has left their daughter in a world of trouble; not only was she suspended for four days but she also faces a possible misdemeanor charge, The Philadelphia Enquirer reported.
“I felt like a four day suspension was a bit much if they were not going to hold any of the other kids accountable,” Ryder’s mom, Sakina Ryder said. The mother took responsibility for the incident, saying she bought the beverage from a gas station the night before and placed it at the bottom of the pantry with all the other juice beverages.
“We just want our child to be treated fairly,” she told The Philadelphia Enquirer. “The crime does not fit the punishment.”
Sakina Ryder said she and her husband, Donald, met with the school’s principal the day after they learned what happened with their daughter. The parents said they also spoke with Penn-Delco superintendent George Steinhoff but said they’re unhappy with the way the situation is being handled. Now, Ryder said she feels she might have made matters worse by challenging the district.
The Penn-Delco district officials have declined to comment on the matter but released a statement saying “school officials take any potential infractions to the code of conduct seriously and act only after a thorough investigation.”
For reasons that remain unclear, the local police department has now gotten involved in the matter. The Philadelphia Enquirer reported that young Ryder was brought in for questioning at the Aston Police Department where she was offered the options of either being charged with a misdemeanor or enrolling in a program for first-time juvenile offenders.
Critics have decried Ryder’s punishment, noting that Black students frequently face harsher consequences than their white peers for minor infractions. Others questioned why the police were involved in the first place.
“The school dealt with the issue,” David Fisher, president of the National Black Police Association of Greater Philadelphia chapter, said. “It shouldn’t be in the police department.”
“This is a school issue,” Fisher added. “You’re not going to sit here now and ruin this 13-year-old girl’s future to go into a high school, to go into a college, over an incident that somebody needs to use a little bit of common sense on.”