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Snowball's Chance

Whoever thought snowballs could become such a hot topic?

When a story ran recently in the Toronto Star informing readers that principals throughout schools in the Canadian province of Ontario have been cracking down on students who throw snowballs, the media officers of the Toronto school board found themselves fielding calls from news networks and reporters from Australia, Britain, and even a Russian-language news service.

No snowballs in Canada? Have our neighbors to the north turned into a bunch of grinches?

While the school policy has been in place informally for decades throughout the country, a Safe Schools Act passed in 2000 more specifically mandates that students who cause serious injury to a peer or teacher will be expelled. And as anyone who has been pelted with a snowball knows, the frozen white stuff can cause some serious damage. Canadian school officials regard snowballs as anything but fun and games.

"In essence, it's another projectile," said John Schmied, a spokesman for the 280,000-student Toronto school district. "We wouldn't allow students to throw rocks in the spring or sticks in the fall. It's a safety issue."

Even the close cousin of the snowball—the snowman—has proved to be dangerous. At a Niagra Falls school in the province of Ontario last month, a 5th grader was trapped under a pile after classmates began rolling snow to build a snowman. The student lost consciousness before a principal revived him with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

As it turns out, Canadian elementary students have another vice besides throwing snowballs that will soon be off-limits. Soft drinks and other carbonated beverages will no longer be sold in elementary school vending machines starting next September. The move was announced early this month by Refreshments Canada, a Toronto-based industry group that represents soft-drink manufacturers after discussions with educators and others.

By the beginning of next school year, beverage companies will ensure that 50 percent or more of the beverage selections in school vending machines will be water and fruit juices. The remaining drinks will be a variety of noncarbonated beverages.

—John Gehring

Vol. 23, Issue 19, Page 9

Published in Print: January 21, 2004, as International

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