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Girl suspended for bringing peppermint oil to school

Ten-year-old Sara Greiner slipped the peppermint oil into her backpack.

Once at Mandracchia-Sawmill Intermediate School in Commack, the fifth-grader put a few drops in her water bottle and shared the water with several classmates.

Moments later Monday, the girl found herself in the principal's office, ordered suspended for a day as school officials told her mother she had violated student code by bringing in and distributing an "unregulated over-the-counter drug."

Greiner's angry parents say they might sue if school officials don't apologize and revoke their daughter's suspension.

"The insinuation that she was bringing some illicit substance to school is infuriating," said Sara's mother, Corrine Morton-Greiner. "She's just a little girl who brought peppermint oil to school."

"We are astounded at the way that this situation was handled," she added. "We're not going to have our reputation and our daughter's reputation tainted in this way."

The family should not count on an apology, school officials say. Commack Superintendent James Feltman defended the school's actions Thursday. He said Sara was given an appropriate punishment - a one-day, in-school suspension. Her mother chose to keep her at home on Tuesday instead. She can appeal the decision if she chooses, he said.

"This was a violation of our code of conduct, there's no question about that," Feltman said. "It's uncontested that the child brought an over-the-counter substance to the school. It's uncontested that she gave it to other children. We teach children from kindergarten not to do that. The reason is you may not know what allergies and what kind of problems other people have."

Morton-Greiner says the peppermint oil is an all-natural product she buys from Young Living Essential Oils, an online company. She says she and her daughter put a drop or two in their water as a soothing remedy. It's especially beneficial for Sara, she said, because she has attention deficit disorder and benefits from the calming effect.

"It just flavors the water slightly and it's also soothing to the stomach," said Morton-Greiner, 46. "It's a nice little something to have."

She said school officials never specifically told her daughter not to bring peppermint oil to school.

"There was no warning here," Morton-Greiner said. "It's not like this is something that happened before."

"While I didn't know she took it with her, it's not something I prevent her from having access to, because it's perfectly safe."

Feltman said school officials want to discourage students from experimenting with new substances. He said that some Web sites say peppermint oil should not be used without first consulting a physician.

"The label says, 'Caution, keep out of the reach of children,' " Feltman said. "Nothing could be plainer. And a 10-year-old can read that."

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