Dangerous Doses of Caffeine Sold to LPHS Students

La Pine High School (LPHS) recently implemented a student-operated “Hawk Shop” which acts as a concession stand for students during the school lunch break. It serves an estimated 30-50 students per week. The shop is run and maintained by the school’s Leadership class, which aims to bring school spirit to LPHS by helping host school dances, creating school-wide events, and decorating the school during the holidays. The Leadership course gives students a chance to convey their appreciation for LPHS and show their hawk pride. 

The Hawk Shop offers a variety of different drinks and snacks for LPHS students, yet the items they choose to sell have raised concerns among LPHS families. Celsius, a popular energy drink, is sold at the Hawk Shop. The drink, which according to the Celsius website, “is not recommended for children under the age of 18,” has 200-300 mg of caffeine per serving. In comparison, the median lethal dose of caffeine is anywhere between 5 and 10 grams, according to the National Institute of Health. Celcius’ introduction into the school market has stirred controversy among LPHS families and has them questioning what food items the school is allowed to sell to their students, and if those items meet health and nutrition standards. 

Other than the energy drinks that are sold, the Hawk Shop does offer healthier snacks than the vending machines do, which is why it is so popular among students and teachers. Items such as popcorn, seltzer and Gatorade are also sold at the shop.

“The Hawk Shop is not for profit and invests all of its money back into the shop to buy more supplies and offer more items to purchase,” said Cameron Broome, LPHS’s Leadership teacher. ”We plan to start offering trail mix and granola bars.” 

School policies and health regulations in Oregon only account for sugar, fat, and calorie content when determining what is considered “safe” for high school students to consume. The Oregon statute ORS 336.423 states that caffeine is prohibited from being distributed by schools to students in grades 8 and below. However, there are no caffeine restrictions for high school students. This leaves all LPHS students with seemingly endless amounts of caffeine at their disposal without having to leave school grounds to obtain it.

“If Bend-La Pine School District puts a policy in place to limit the amount of caffeine consumed by students, I would support that,” said Scott Olszewski, the school’s principal. 

The majority of LPHS students who have bought energy drinks from the Hawk Shop say the drinks give them a “boost” that helps them stay focused and energized during class. 

“It’s a quick way to keep me awake during class,” said Ashton Mccay, a regular Hawk Shop customer. Even though students consume highly caffeinated drinks like Celsius frequently, they are usually aware of their harmful effects. 

“I know the drink has bad stuff in it like caffeine,” said Kolten Kopachik, a student who refuses to drink Celsius and helps run the shop. Despite knowing this fact, students still choose to buy energy drinks and even vouch for its presence in the Hawk Shop. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 percent of school districts nationwide have policies in place to limit the amount of caffeine that is consumed by their students. One of these districts was the Baltimore County Public School District, which implemented its caffeine policies in 2014. The school enacted this policy because of the overwhelming research conducted by the FDA that suggests caffeine negatively affects students’ behavior and academic performance. A caffeine-related death in 2011 also served as a further motivator for the policy. The victim was a 14-year-old student of Maryland that reportedly “[died] after drinking just two energy drinks”

Even though Celsius sits comfortably within school regulations and on the surface, helps students get through the day, that does not mean that it is best for students’ health. The Bend-La Pine School district may not be able to completely prevent high school students from drinking caffeine, but it is capable of installing policies that limit the amount of caffeine that is advertised and sold to students.