Saturday, November 26, 2005

Why son refused to stand

The article below appeared in the Courier News. This is yet another example of how schools are more apt to teach their political/social agenda's instead of giving students a really sound education foundation. It is great to teach students about other cultures but in America we have the right to refuse to stand if we so choose. Bravo to this father for standing up to his son's rights.

Why son refused to stand

I am the father of the young man who did not stand for the singing of the Mexican national anthem during a cultural awareness program at Larkin High School.

I have been constantly asked to explain the details of the event, and it is in response to these individuals that I offer the following facts.

Some of the students, my son included, were compelled to attend this assembly. The Mexican national anthem was printed on fliers and handed out to the attending students. The Mexican flag was marched in and placed on a podium by itself. The attendees were then asked to stand and sing the Mexican national anthem.

My son was not alone in his refusal to stand. Statements given to me by other youths and parents put the number of refusals at close to 20.

Larkin staff members immediately confronted the seated youth. Some of the students were threatened with in-school suspension; most of the seated students were intimidated into standing.

My son explained to the angry teacher who confronted him that he did not see a U.S. flag on the podium and he did not believe they were going to sing our national anthem. This teacher stated, "They have to stand for our national anthem, so you have to stand for theirs."

My son stated in response, "Yeah, but they're in our country."

The teacher called my son a punk and sent him to the office. The administrator in the office supported the teacher's demand and told my son that he could have made a more intelligent decision. My son was not formally disciplined. The teacher who confronted my son defended her actions to her students during class the following week.

I called Larkin principal Richard Webb to express my disappointment and concern. I described the manner in which my son had been treated. I was told that my son should have stood and that the school stood by its right to have this assembly in its chosen form.

I then exercised my right as a citizen and addressed the school board.

The press was present at the board meeting and media awareness snowballed from that point forward. Some of my statements to the board included, "I am disappointed that those responsible for creating an assembly intended to educate and sensitize Americans also felt free to act insensitively with regard to our culture. It is permissible to present another country's anthem alongside ours and receive standing respect. It is not reasonable to expect or demand that Americans stand and display respect for another flag and country in absence of the American anthem or flag."

I also asked the board to consider two positive actions. "First, encourage Larkin High School administrators to not underscore one culture to the exclusion of others. This ill-conceived mandatory assembly did nothing but widen the current schism. Second, I would ask the board to lay down some principles for future assemblies. While it is good educational practice to teach about other cultures, it is not an acceptable practice to require mandatory response to the patriotic elements of those cultures."

I was appalled by Webb's printed statement. Apologizing only for the "unfortunate spotlight" placed on the school does not acknowledge the process that brought the spotlight. Lack of proper oversight created an assembly that offended a large number of people. Teachers behaving badly guaranteed parental follow-through. Administrative silence and denial has perpetuated their arrogant image.

Trivializing the incident and belittling those it concerned has only confirmed Webb's lack of grounding with the community.

Since Dec. 8, 2004, educational institutions receiving federal funding are required to hold an educational program pertaining to the United States Constitution on Sept. 17 of each year. This year, Sept. 17 fell on a Saturday.

Our high school apparently chose on Sept. 16 not to hold an assembly on the Constitution of the United States, but to educate our youth on the patriotic elements of another country.

- Bedard is an Elgin resident.

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