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Taking the lid off fizzy-drink deals

A 15-year-old pupil has won a legal battle to force school boards to reveal details of vending machine deals they strike with soft drinks makers.

Nicholas Dodds, a student journalist on an underground newspaper, brought the case to the Ontario information and privacy commission after the York regional school board refused to release information about its exclusive contract with Pepsi. The board governs his school in Aurora, Ontario.

"I became interested in why there were no Coke machines in school. In person, York Region board staff confirmed that there was a contract with Pepsi but the board formally denied it when I asked for it," he said.

The board, which signed the Pepsi contract in 2000, said it would not give details about the contract as it contained confidential information. The commission rejected this argument ruling disclosure would not damage the interests of either board or vendor.

"The presence of vending machines is a big issue," says Jack Dodds, Nicholas's father. "The money they raise is important to the schools.

"But the real issue is about the secrecy of the contract. We control the schools through democratically elected trustees. But how can we exercise control if we don't have the information?"

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