No place for alcohol in schools: Parent

A Chilliwack parent was furious to learn her children's elementary school was collecting alcohol donations for a Christmas fundraiser.

Vanessa Skotnitsky

A Chilliwack parent is furious that alcohol is being used in elementary school fundraisers.

For two years Vanessa Skotnitsky’s children, who attend Evans elementary and the Wind and Tide Preschool located in the school, have been sent home with letters requesting alcohol donations for the school’s annual Christmas fundraiser.

Every year, each classroom is given a theme to build gift baskets from that are auctioned off at the school’s Christmas concert.

Last year, Skotnitsky’s daughter’s Grade 3 class had a theme of liquor store gift cards. And this year, the preschool, of which her youngest daughter attends, had a Christmas cocktail theme.

Alcohol doesn’t belong in schools, said Skotnitsky.

“It’s inappropriate.”

Skotnitsky’s father died last year from the effects of alcoholism. When she received last year’s request, she thought maybe it was an oversight. She wrote a letter to the principal, explaining her family’s situation, how including alcohol into the school realm could be confusing for her children, and possibly others.

She didn’t got a response.

But this year, when her youngest daughter’s preschool was requested to make a Christmas cocktail gift basket, using a specific recipe that included chocolate shavings and other sugary items, she was furious.

“You’re just glorifying this to children,” she said.

Skotnitsky is concerned for the safety of students. Each gift basket is on display in the school’s hallway prior to the Christmas concert.

What if an overly curious student swiped a bottle, she asked.

Skotnitsky feels she’s been given the runaround.

When she didn’t get a response from the principal last year, she went to the assistant superintendent who said it was a PAC issue as they’re in charge of school fundraisers. She then spoke to three PAC members who showed sympathy. But nothing changed.

This year Skotnitsky complained to the preschool, which promptly opted out of the theme after other parents had also complained. She also contacted the liquor control and licensing branch, who told her it was illegal to auction off alcohol without a proper permit.

However, as of Nov. 22, the B.C. government has relaxed the rules around auctioning liquor. Donated liquor from an individual’s private collection, as well as liquor donated by a business or manufacturer, can be put up for auction without permit as long as the funds raised go toward charitable purposes. That includes small volumes of liquor – up to two cases of wine, eight 750 ml bottles of liquor, and, or 24 six-packs of beer, cider or coolers.

But for Skotnitsky, legality isn’t the issue.

“You want to be able to take your children shopping for the donation, you want to include them in the whole giving and generosity part of Christmas, but you don’t want to take them to the liquor store,” she said.

“As far as I’m concerned, even if it’s legal, it’s not moral.”

The Progress left messages for the principal at Evans elementary, the PAC president, the assistant superintendent and the superintendent of Chilliwack school district.

None responded.

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