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Misconceptions surround "Keg Law" as minors drink with parents

By Karen Augenstein, for The Miami Student

Family Weekend at Miami University can be more than just a time for parents and siblings to visit campus. Some underage students take advantage of being able to legally drink with their parents or guardians.

Commonly known as the "Keg Law" in Ohio, parents are allowed to buy their kids alcohol, assuming they 18 and in remain the presence of their guardians at all times.

However, many don't know that minors must be with their legal guardian until they are sober again. In addition to this, the alcohol parents buy must go to their kids and only their kids. They cannot buy it for friends or in large quantities for social events.

First-year Elizabeth Winhover believes students are misinformed about the law.

"Despite what some people believe, the keg law doesn't mean your parents can just let you get drunk and leave," Winhover said. "It means your parents can get you a drink, but they have to stay with you the entire time to make sure you're okay. You can't just leave right after."

The law does not protect parents who provide alcohol to kids other than their own. In fact, a person over 21 providing alcohol to minors who are not their children would be held accountable for any legal issues, not the minors. Additionally, if an adult were to buy alcohol for a large group of people under 21, there could be serious repercussions.

With parents being able to buy drinks for their kids, students at Miami may take advantage of the opportunity. Oxford Police Department (OPD) Sgt. Jon Varley, said the law can lead to some incidents, though he says they're relatively isolated.

"It can create some awkward situations," Varley said. "If a student is getting rowdy and acting disorderly, but are in the presence of their parents, it's still technically legal, even if it causes distractions. If the parents become intoxicated as well, it can be difficult for them to be in an authoritative position."

Varley added that the problem isn't any worse during family weekend than it is on other weekends of the year.

Though the federal legal drinking age is 21, there are four exceptions to this law in the state of Ohio: if a person under 21 is being supervised by their own parents, if they have legitimate medical need, if there are religious obligations or if their spouse is over 21. The most prominent of these is parental supervision.

Junior Brittany Sigsworth works as a bartender and server at 45 East Bar & Grill. She doesn't see an issue with the law at her work.

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"It's usually not a problem when I'm serving," Sigsworth said. "Kids might drink a glass of wine or beer with their meal, and it's pretty clear whose paying for the drinks and how old everyone is. However, when I work the late shift, there are always a lot more students - and surprisingly a lot of parents - who can get intoxicated on family weekends. While it's typically not a big deal, it can be difficult to be sure who adults are being drinks for."

The law can cause some conflict or confusion for parents and for out of state students during Family Weekend. However, while some Miami students may think that this law is a shortcut to drinking before 21, Varley said people often forget the entire makeup in the law.

"Even though students are allowed to drink in the presence of their parents, they have to remember that they must be supervised by them at all times," Varley said. "If a parent decides to head in, their child would have to go with them, otherwise they will be seen as drinking under age without a guardian present."