UPDATE: Seattle High School Anti-Military Day

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UPDATE: Kimberly was kind enough to link to this entry, but no trackback posted. So check out Kimberly’s comments.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin has discovered that Susan Derse has a history of anti-Military attitudes. Read her post. (Corrected Link)

Also LGF has printed the letters from the Principal, but not the one I received from the school board.

UPDATE: March 24 letter to the Seattle School Board demanding additional information and apologies.

I just received a fine letter from Susan Derse, principal of West Seattle High School regarding the anti-military fiasco conducted last week. Here is the text of her e-mail. Below that is the letter she sent to parents of all students. (See Michelle Malkin’s stories here and here.)

Dear Mr. Hennessy,

I appreciate your writing to me about what took place in the school theater prior to the Iraq assembly held last Friday at West Seattle High School. I am enclosing for you a copy of the letter I sent home with students the Tuesday following the assembly, as it may provide additional information or insights for you on this situation, and my handling of it.

Our students were wrong to provide a biased warm up skit prior to our assembly. When I discovered that they had done so, and that they had invited others from the community to participate in the activity, I called the activity to an immediate halt. The stage was cleared, the actors changed out of their costumes, and the theater became once again a neutral environment in which our students would hear multiple perspectives on the war in Iraq so as to form their own opinions.

It was only at that time that we permitted our student body to enter the theater for the assembly. When I received a letter of complaint from Major Thomas about the warm up activity, I did call the Major and apologized to him for the reception he receivd when he arrived at the theater about fifteen minutes before the assembly was to start.

Here is the letter. I honor you for writing,

Susan Derse’

Principal

Letter to parents:

March 15, 2005

Dear West Seattle High School Families,

I am writing this letter to clarify information that has recently appeared in the news media regarding an assembly held on Friday, March 11. The assembly, which was organized by students with the guidance of faculty advisors and administrators, dealt with the complex and timely issue of the war in Iraq. This topic is both emotional and controversial, as individuals have varied views and perspectives on this issue.

Using our School Board policies (G04.00) and procedures (GO4.01) on Controversial Issues, the activity was structured in a balanced, objective and fair manner. A panel composed of speakers with varying perspectives was formed. The allocated speaking time for each presenter was divided equally. All panel members were made aware that each participant would be treated in a respectful and equitable manner.

On the day of the assembly, approximately 15 minutes before its start, I was made aware of a dramatic production in the theater. The presentation involved the representation of war in Iraq. I immediately asked those students and adults involved in the dramatic presentation to cease the activity. They did comply with my request. At no time did any of our students witness the production except for those individuals directly involved in the re-enactment. Because of the performance’s emotional nature, I believed it would unfairly influence students’ opinions prior to the panel discussion regarding the war. I firmly believe that schools should be open environments for appropriate and respectful dialogue regarding important topics and issues. Certainly, the war in Iraq is such an issue. However, the dramatization of the events was in direct conflict with the intent of the assembly and the policies set forth by the district policies.

I am continuing to work with those students and their advisors in understanding this sensitive issue. Some of our military panelists were deeply offended by this dramatic production and felt unfairly targeted because of their service to our country. I certainly regret and apologize for that misunderstanding and want to remind all that our school as well as others in Seattle honor and celebrate our veterans every year and in many ways. While we cannot shy away from these tough issues, you have my commitment to approach them in a fair, thoughtful and respectful manner.

Thank you for your continued support of our students and school.

Sincerely,
Susan Ders


9 Comments

  • Bill Hennessy

    March 24, 2005

    T.

    I won’t. I’m sending a follow-up e-mail to the school board this afternoon. I’ll update the blog.

  • T. Swain

    March 24, 2005

    Bill,

    Let’s not let this one go until some one exhibit’s some sort of accountability here. Who were these mysterious faculty advisors and what was their role in this blatantly anti-military, anti American skit…You should encourage everyone including fellow bloggers to be persistent in writing letter after letter so this one is not swept under the LLL carpet.

  • T. Swain

    March 24, 2005

    Bill,

    Let’s not let this one go until some one exhibit’s some sort of accountability here. Who were these mysterious faculty advisors and what was their role in this blatantly anti-military, anti American skit…You should encourage everyone including fellow bloggers to be persistent in writing letter after letter so this one is not swept under the LLL carpet.

  • Bill Hennessy

    March 24, 2005

    Kate,

    Thanks. My wonderful wife is a special education assistant working on her master’s in special ed. Thank you for your work, too. I put a lot of faith in the following generations, but their teachers will give them the tools to meet my expectations.

  • Kate

    March 24, 2005

    Michele Malkin has more info today. She spoke with Maj. Thomas who will be meeting with the board members. Maj. Thomas is a very professional, thoughtful, articulate and persuasive officer. I know he will represent himself and the Marine Corps in a manner on par with the finest of those who have come before.

    When my husband gets back in town, I’m sure he’ll give Terry a ring (and satisfy all of my curiosity about what’s going on). Until then, I think he deserves our encouragement and thanks for trying to hold people accountable. Free Speech is not without consequences.

    On the principal issue, I take your points, and agree. I wish you luck in working with those who you know are helpful in preparing your child for excellence and in working around those who are not. As an insider, I can say working with parents who are this engaged makes our work so much easier and more successful. And the principal should know he’s embarrassing himself and his school.

  • Bill Hennessy

    March 23, 2005

    Kate,

    You’re too generous. I’m just a hot head (as Judge Wapner might say) who has a forum for spouting off my copious opinions, really.

    But I thank you deeply for your patriotism, devotion, and kind words.

  • Kate

    March 23, 2005

    Bill,

    It has been my honor to be married to a US Marine. And I am happy to have given up a feeling of security about my husband’s safety and time spent apart for those Iraqis (and many others around the globe I know he has helped) who deserve a chance. Thanks for your comments to our family. And, thanks for being vigilant. Your work (hobby), I believe, helps stem the tide of anti- military atittudes that served to demoralize a generation of brave heroes in Vietnam. Thanks for not letting that happen again.

    Good Luck, you make a difference.
    Kate

  • Bill Hennessy

    March 23, 2005

    Kate,

    First, thank you for your sacrifices that allow your husband to serve and protect our great country.

    Second, thank you for following this story. It’s important that we highlight the ingratitude some adults teach to children–a lesson that will harm those kids all their lives.

    Third, I doubt I will hear much more from the school or the school board. Frankly, I was surprised that they responded at all, but they may have been flooded with e-mails. My guess is their responses were to stop the bleeding, not to fix the problem.

    As you point out, the disease in this case is smug superiority of the board and the teachers. They think of service members as Neanderthal baby killers intellectually incapable of understanding an insult even when it’s directed at them. They are wrong.

    I will absolutely use this space to continue promoting due respect for our services and to promote reasonable treatment of our service members by tax-dollar-guzzling schools.

    Cordially,
    Bill Hennessy

  • Kate

    March 23, 2005

    Bill,

    Thanks for the update and follow up.

    My husband served with Major Thomas in Iraq and I’m very interested in the outcome.

    I also sent letters to board members and principle sharing my outrage as a veteran’s wife and as a high school teacher. While I agree that Mrs. Derse’s letter seems more sincere than the school boards’, it still leaves me wanting. Perhaps nothing could right this wrong. However, no matter how large a high school is, administrators (those accountable) can not be unaware of such a dramatic presentation of guerrila theatre. There was obvious planning, writing, and rehearsal required for this to be pulled off. Additionally, these things don’t happen out of the blue. There has to have been a welcome culture for students to feel that this was not only okay but perfectly appropriate.

    At no time did Mrs. Derse mention her embarrassment. That concerns me.

    Please continue to update us.

Comments are closed.