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Drinking of junior high school students cause furor

Date Posted: 2003-11-21

Underage drinking by some 141 Ginowan Junior High School students left them with hangovers following a weekend fair at a local university campus in Nishihara.

The incident at the Ryukyu University festival has caused school officials to denounce the bad judgment on the part of its students, and to serve notice of plans to cancel the annual festival. This year, an estimated 22,000 Ginowan and Nishihara area residents jammed the campus for the festival.

The fair’s liberal alcohol policy has caused an outcry as a large number of junior high school students attending the fair reportedly were served alcohol, and visited sick bays at their school the following day with symptoms that school officials say very closely resembled hangovers.

Officials at a public school where most of the cases were reported suspect that college students running the festival sold beer and other alcoholic beverages to the underage pupils.

“We warned students who were planning to attend the university festival not to drink alcohol,” the principal of the junior high school said. “We got a phone call from some parents who said that they had seen some of our students to buy beer and awamori from one of the booths. It may be that some of our students drank out of curiosity, but we make sure that they never do it again.” He also added that his school wants to lodge a formal protest to the university.

At least one of the junior high students who had become sick reportedly told school officials that a university student had offered him some drinks, saying that it would be OK to drink as it was a festival.

A survey among the pupils at the junior high school concluded that at least 17 first graders, 50 second and 74 third graders had gotten drunk at the festival. Officials at the university said that they had instructed the festival organizers to make sure that no alcohol is served to minors. The Okinawa Board of Education also had a special meeting to discuss the incident.

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