AKRON, Ohio — A charter school has recently come under fire for serving gin to four students as part of a graduation ritual. Although the ceremony was criticized, a spokesperson for the school defended the decision.
The Phoenix Village Academy focuses on African history and culture in addition to traditional curriculum. The school has 40 students, spanning kindergarten to sixth grade, and has been in operation for only a year as part of the Ashe Culture Center.
The ceremony mimicked Ghanian rite of passage that illustrates the importance of truth-telling. During the graduation, each of the four students participating in the ritual were blindfolded. The blindfold represented the uncertainty that comes with person growth.
Then each student was given a teaspoon of water. Then they were given a teaspoon of gin mixed with water. Each student was asked if the gin laced water was water, and replied “no”. They then spit out the gin.
The point of the ritual is to illustrate the importance of telling the truth according to school officials.
Kwa David Whitaker, who spoke on behalf of the Phoenix Village Academy according to the Beacon Journal said that alcohol would not be used in future ceremonies. Despite the change, the school still supports what occurred during the graduation ceremony.
Whitaker pointed out that the importance lied in the ritual, not what was contained in the water. He suggested that the school could use pepper in the future.
The gin used during the ritual was in clear view of the parents during the graduation ceremony, and all parents were aware that alcohol was going to be served.
Although the inclusion of alcohol may leave a bitter taste in the mouths of some parents, supporters are quick to point out that Catholic schools serve wine to minors during Communion.
However, the fact that the charter school receives nearly $270,000 in public funds has some citizens concerned about the appropriateness of the display. Charter schools were created in 1998 to address poorly performing public schools in Ohio.
The Ohio Department of Education has pledged to look into the matter. “We are concerned about any school serving underage students alcohol and will be in contact with the school’s sponsor to investigate further,” said spokeswoman Karla Carruthers, as reported by the Beacon Journal.
According to Fox News, not all parents objected to the inclusion of alcohol in the ritual. “It’s part of an ancestral African tradition,” mother Candie Nelson said. “It’s not like you’re drinking 100 proof alcohol here.”
“School Defends Serving 6th-Graders Gin.” Fox News. URL: (http://www.foxnews.com/wires/2007Jun09/0,4670,SchoolGraduationAlcohol,00.html)
“School Defends Serving Gin To Students At Graduation.” Akron-Canton News. URL: (http://www.newsnet5.com/akroncanton/13473946/detail.html)
Warsmith, Stephanie and Katie Byard, “Children given gin in school’s graduation ceremony.” Beacon Journal. URL: (http://www.ohio.com/mld/ohio/17346395.htm)