Fifth-grade students were given non-alcoholic beer in a Linden classroom during a lesson on colonial times, district Superintendent Ed Koledo said.
Koledo said a teacher allowed her students at Hyatt Elementary School to sample O’Doul’s non-alcoholic beer, which had been brought to school by a student to represent ale common in the 1700s and consumed because of the scarcity of clean water. School officials have not said how many students sampled the drink.
School officials sent a letter home on Friday, March 14, to inform parents and explain what happened.
O’Doul’s is advertised as non-alcoholic beer and has less than 0.5 percent alcohol, according to the Anheuser-Busch website.
The state Liquor Control Commission only regulates beer that has at least 0.5 percent of alcohol. However, it is a misdemeanor crime to give O’Doul’s and other “near beer” drinks that contain even small amounts of alcohol to minors, according to a state LCC spokeswoman Andrea Miller.
The March 6 class focused in part on the fact that many people drank ale in colonial times because water was sometimes dirty or unhealthy and there was limited availability of other drinks, Koledo said.
“Beer was actually one of the staple drinks,” he said.
The teacher thought the O’Doul’s was “OK to use” because the label said it was a non-alcoholic malt beverage, according to the letter from Hyatt Principal Vicki Malkaravage sent home with students.
Three students in the class also took a bottle of the O’Doul’s home and while students in the class were allowed a small taste, no students were forced to try the O’Doul’s, Malkaravage’s letter said.
Koledo, who declined to identify the teacher, said allowing non-alcoholic beer into the classroom and allowing students to drink it was a mistake.
“We talked to the teacher and said this was an inappropriate choice,” he said. “There were a lot better choices to represent a colonial-era drink than what was chosen here.”
Koledo said the decision was made to send the letter home with students after an inquiry by the Flint Journal but did not initially send a letter because no one seemed upset by the incident.
“Nobody complained to the teacher, principal or me,” Koledo said. “We monitored the situation the next day. It was a dead topic so we just left it at that.”
The student who brought the non-alcoholic beer is not going to be disciplined, Koledo said.
Koledo declined comment when asked if the teacher has faced or will face discipline.
“I know the teacher and know her as being a very responsible person,” said Scott Maker, president of the Linden School Board. “I know there was no intent to expose anyone to harm, just poor thought in this situation.”
Linden Police Chief Scott Sutter said there have been no complaints to his department.
Linden schools are drug and alcohol-free zones and Koledo said he did not know if O’Doul’s beer would constitute a violation.
DiAnne Hukill, president of the Hyatt Elementary Parents Active in Linden Schools, said her son is in fifth grade and was unaware of the incident.
“(Parents Active in Linden Schools) has not been informed of anything like this,” she said. “I’m a surprised a parent would allow O’Doul’s to be brought in.”