The Taoyuan County Government’s Bureau of Education said it has completed its investigation into an alleged case of underage drinking at an elementary school and will now turn the case over to other agencies for further investigation.
According to the bureau, on March 26 and 27, a sixth-grade student surnamed Huang (黃) from Jhongli City’s (中壢) Chung Cheng Elementary School had allegedly used his breakfast money to buy beer which he shared with other children at the school.
Initial investigations suggested that Huang purchased two cans of fruit-flavored Taiwan Beer — each containing 3 percent alcohol — and shared them with about 10 students on the first day, then on the second day bought a can of Heineken — with a 5 percent alcohol content — and shared it with two students.
The illicit drinking went unnoticed by teachers and would not have been discovered except for one of the students feeling nauseous during the night and admitting to drinking beer at school, the bureau said, adding that it first learned of the incident in early April.
Meanwhile, school dean Yu Hsieh-tsai (余謝財) said the school has held a disciplinary hearing for the student’s homeroom teacher, surnamed Hsu (許), to discuss his negligent supervision and gave him an official warning.
On Thursday during the Taoyuan County Council’s plenary session, Taoyuan County Councilor Wan Mei-ling (萬美玲) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) raised the incident and said a response made by Hsu during his disciplinary hearing with an educational inspector had been “unbecoming of an educator.”
Hsu was quoted by Wan as telling the education inspector: “Drinking doesn’t really matter as long as they [students] do not drink at school. They can drink at home with their parents, or drink with their friends.”
In Hsu’s defense, Yu said that Hsu was nervous and what he originally meant to say was: “Children should ask their parents [whether drinking was okay.]”
Wan also said that some store owners had complained that the packaging for alcoholic drinks and soft drinks were too similar.
The store owner whose shop was found to have sold alcoholic beverages to the student was quoted by the school as saying that usually his 80-year-old father looked after the store and that he might have been confused by the drink’s packaging.
Taoyuan County Commissioner John Wu (吳志揚) on Thursday gave instructions for the county government to implement a regulation under the Local Government Act (地方自治法) for shop owners to separate soft drinks and alcoholic beverages for ease of recognition.
Selling alcohol or tobacco products to minors is in violation of the Youths Welfare and Rights Act (兒童及少年福利與權益保障法) and is punishable by fines ranging from NT$3,000 to NT$15,000 (US$100 to US$500), the county government’s social welfare bureau director Chen Chung-liang (陳仲良) said.