NILES – It’s beef jerky, but it looks like some form of chewing tobacco – and it got four students suspended at Ring Lardner Middle School in Niles on Wednesday.
One of those four suspended students suspended had chewing tobacco in this beef jerky tin. But the other three actually had the beef jerky in it.
"I was confused why I got in trouble for this," eighth-grader Brenton Harrell said.
Teriyaki beef jerky. It doesn't scream “suspension.”
"It's ground up beef jerky you can put it in your lip or eat it," Harrel said.
It's all the rage right now at Niles Ring Lardner Middle School and Harrell will tell you: it's quite tasty.
"He's been taking beef jerky to school with him all year round," said Brenton's dad Jeffrey. "It's something to snack on. Nothing more."
Brenton's Dad is questioning why his son's school suspended his eighth-grader over a snack.
The school calls it an imitation drug because it looks like chewing tobacco.
"The bubble gum by the foot, that's in a round container," Jeffrey Harrel said. "Put it in your back pocket it can be mistaken for chew."
Big league Chew bubble gum is sometimes considered another look-a-like. Then you have candy cigarettes and bubble gum cigars and Tic-Tacs that could pass as pills.
Principal Douglas Langmeyer said there's no tolerance for look-a-like drugs.
But Jeffrey said a suspension was too harsh for his son. A simple warning about the beef jerky would have been enough.
"Bring the kids in and say you can't bring it in like this...put it in a lunch baggie," Jeffrey said.
Brenton voluntarily went to his principal on Wednesday to show him his tin was full of....
"Beef jerky...shredded up beef jerky...Jacks Links, no more," Brenton said. "I don't know why they want to degrade us for beef jerky."
Brenton was still suspended.
Of the four students suspended, three of them will go back to school on Monday, the next day of class. The students are off school Thursday and Friday because of conferences.
The fourth student remains suspended over the real tobacco until he has a school hearing.