Students sampled O'Doul's as part of colonial times presentation - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Students sampled O'Doul's as part of colonial times class presentation

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(03/18/14) - It's a social studies lesson few will soon forget - one that included some fifth grade students sipping non-alcoholic O'Doul's in class. 

It happened at Linden's Hyatt Elementary School, March 6.

O'Doul's is a non-alcohol malt beverage, according to Anheuser-Busch's website. Packaging shows it contains less than 0.5 percent alcohol.

A letter Hyatt Elementary School Principal Vicki Makaravage sent home to parents, Friday, explains the kids were learning about food and drinks available during colonial times and how beer was common because of the bacteria in water back then.

A student brought the O'Doul's in with some cornbread, according to Linden Superintendent Ed Koledo. The child's parent provided the beverages, he said.

"The parent had actually asked the teacher about it as part of the project as 'Would this be OK?' and when the teacher looked at the label, where it said non-alcoholic beverage, she thought, 'Yeah, that'd work,'" Koledo said.

The students who wanted to sample the O'Doul's, did. Koledo said three students took a bottle home with them, too.

A parent, not associated with the class, alerted Koledo that night and he says he learned about the bottles the next week.

"To the letter of the law, this technically wasn't alcohol," Koledo said. "But it was a poor decision to use as a substitute."

Koledo declined to say what, if anything, happened to the teacher who OK'ed the O'Doul's.

Staff spoke with the kids and none are in trouble. Parents, of the students involved, were contacted.

"In talking with our school attorney, we feel like we handled it appropriately," Koledo said. "Our most important thing is to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Below is the letter sent home to parents:

Dear 5th grade parents,

I am writing this letter to inform you of an incident that happened last week on Thursday.  During student presentations in a social studies class, for the colonial Period, we had a presentation using food and drink representing what would have been available then.  The class had held discussions about how beer was actually a common drink for the period, because of bacteria in water back then, no pop, no water bottles, etc.  For one presentation, cornbread and O'Douls were used.  At the time, reading the label that stated it was a non-alcoholic malt beverage, the teacher decided it was ok to use.  Since then we have found out that the beverage actually has ½ of 1% of alcohol in it.  Samples were distributed to the class.  I spoke to the class today that the beverage should not have been shared in school and that no students were in trouble.  Today, we were made aware that three students took a bottle home from school on Thursday.  I have been in contact with all three parents.

I asked the teacher to explain how this happened and her response is below:

Students were assigned a project on colonial times that fit the era between 1630 - 1770.  Students were asked to research their idea and present it to the class. One of the things that we talk about in our discussions is that beer was common for drinking because of the bad water found in colonial times. Even children drank beer for safety reasons.  One of the students asked if they could bring in a non-alcoholic beer.  I said they could as long as there was no alcohol involved.  The project was authentic to the time period and very controlled in the classroom, so the students had a small taste of the O'Douls beverage.  Students did not have to drink it if they chose not to. 

We felt it important to notify all of fifth grade as you may or may not be aware of the situation.  Please be assured that we are taking steps to ensure staff district-wide is made aware of the misleading labeling on these type of malt beverages.  We also want to make sure the students know they did nothing wrong in this situation.  In this situation, students acted on something cleared by adults, and had no intention of breaking any rules.  As adults, there was an error made and we will make sure that students are not exposed to this type of beverage again.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me.  I apologize for this incident and hope you are better able to discuss this situation with your student.


Vicki Makaravage

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