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Ethics Committee sees little value in schools opposing liquor ads

The question of whether the Sunnyside School District should be opposing liquor licenses and liquor advertisements at premises within 500 feet of school property, is one the Sunnyside Ethics Committee has been tangling with for some time.

Thursday night, Steve Winfree of the school district's Ethics Committee told school board members that after extensive research the group does not see a reason to oppose either liquor licenses or advertisements.

"There has been no evidence of alcohol being sold to minors and it doesn't appear that advertising is being targeted at minors," Winfree said.

He added that the Ethics Committee believes many of the businesses located within 500 feet of the schools that sell liquor have a vested interest in the community.

"Businesses have substantial investments and rely on the ability to sell liquor, and to oppose advertising or the transfer or renewal of licenses would cause severe economic hardship and would be of no apparent benefit to students," wrote the Ethics Committee in a letter to the school board.

The committee added that some businesses currently selling liquor could have easily been in business before a school was constructed within a 500-foot radius.

Sunnyside Superintendent of Schools Dr. Rick Cole pointed to an important sentiment in the letter drafted by the committee. The sentence reads, "The decision not to oppose liquor licenses or advertising does not constitute an endorsement of liquor."

"The fact that we don't oppose it doesn't mean...we endorse alcohol use at all," Winfree said.

Winfree reported that the group has also been looking at the issue of gambling. He said they were asked to look at whether a casino night was an appropriate event for the school to host after graduation.

Winfree said the key to casino night is that there is no risk of loss to the students who take part in the event.

"They don't lose anything," Winfree said.

He added that the event was originally established as a way to keep graduates together and safe following the graduation ceremony, as opposed to being at various parties across town.

"We didn't see any reason to oppose something like that," Winfree said.

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