After nearly a year of suspension, a high-school cooking teacher who let several students eat cinnamon has been cleared to return to the classroom. Let's just get this out of the way up front: These events took place at New Dorp High School. NEW DORP HIGH SCHOOL. Okay. At New Dorp High School, in the New Dorp area of Staten Island, teacher Matthew Hayes has been collecting a paycheck all year while the New York City Department of Education investigates his cinnamon-related crimes.
The issue stems from a culinary-arts class lesson on using spices in cooking. As part of it, Hayes' students were invited to taste several spices, including cinnamon and cocoa powder. One student asked if they could do a "cinnamon challenge"—a popular teen meme in 2013, in which people film themselves attempting to swallow a whole teaspoon of ground cinnamon, with no liquid, in under 60 seconds—but Hayes said no, according to an Education Department report obtained by the Staten Island Advance.
He told investigators that he was aware of the YouTube challenge, but that the lesson was "not at that level." He said one student asked whether they could do the "cinnamon challenge" and he advised the student it was a "bad idea because cinnamon absorbs moisture, and that it had the "consistency of baby powder."
Eventually, Hayes permitted three students to each try swallowing a half-teaspoon of the spice. He provided the students with water, and no one timed the "challenge" or captured it on video. And everyone ended up just fine. "Two of the students swallowed the spice after letting it melt in their mouth," according to the Advance, "while a third spit out the cinnamon into a trash can in the room."
It sounds like Hayes probably helped dissuade his students from trying the cinnamon challenge on their own. He showed them in a safe, controlled idea environment that swallowing a bunch of cinnamon at once is really gross—a valuable life and culinary lesson! But for this, an anonymous snitch reported Hayes to school authorities. He was placed on leave in November 2013, when the city Education Department's Office of Special Investigations began looking into the incident. Investigators ultimately reprimanded Hayes but cleared him to the classroom when school opens on September 4 this year.