Thursday, November 11, 2004

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Principal apologizes for speakers at Veterans Day assembly

Seattle Post-IntelligenceBELLINGHAM, Wash. -- Two members of Veterans for Peace got a standing ovation when they addressed a high-school Veterans Day assembly, but their appearance prompted a letter of apology from the principal.

Sehome High School officials received some complaints that the Wednesday event was too one-sided, principal Jim Kistner said. He told The Bellingham Herald that staff members had said that graphic descriptions of war had upset a number of students.

"I want to apologize for making any student or staff member uncomfortable because the presentation at Sehome's Veterans Day Assembly today was used to advance a particular political agenda," Kistner wrote in the letter distributed to students.

"Our community speakers had agreed that this assembly would honor our veterans. We deeply regret that they did not."

"I completely disagree with that last statement," Marshall Petryni, 17, a student organizer of the assembly, said in a Thursday telephone interview with The Associated Press.

"A bunch of kids came up to me after - some were crying, some gave me hugs," Petryni said.

One of the speakers, Mark Polin, who served in the Navy from 1979 to 1997, told the gathering of nearly 1,000 students that Veterans Day was originally Armistice Day - commemorating an end to war.

Kistner's letter said the school would make counselors available for students or staff who needed them. A second Veterans Day assembly is planned, he said.

He said he was not told the speakers belonged to a peace organization, and that he would review the process for arranging assemblies.

"No blame, nobody is in trouble," Kistner told The Herald.


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