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,
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