Quote of the day

"We are shut up in schools and college recitation rooms for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bellyful of words and do not know a thing. "

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Letter to Dr. Terry Bergeson, Superintendent of Public Instruction

We received an open letter from one of our parents;

14 February 2008

Dr. Terry Bergeson
Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Dr. Bergeson,

You may or may not be aware of a situation involving the Snoqualmie Valley School District and Mount Si High School. The school administration invited Rev. Ken Hutcherson to speak at the MLK day assembly last month. This invitation was extended over the objections of faculty and the student GSA due to Mr. Hutcherson's notoriety both nationally and internationally related to his fight against civil rights for the LGBT community. Indeed, the faculty and students were mislead by the administration when they were assured that Mr. Hutcherson would not be invited to speak. This was not the first time Mr. Hutcherson was invited, nor the first time his presence generated controversy and complaints from the faculty, students and parents of Mt Si. He was invited three years ago for a similar event.

On the day of the assembly, many were shocked to see Mr. Hutcherson appear at the podium. One teacher, Kit McCormick who is the faculty advisor to the GSA, asked Mr. Hutcherson a question, with permission and after his speech. That question basically asked how Mr. Hutcherson could reconcile his fight against civil rights for the LGBT community with his presence here to honor Dr. King's fight for civil rights for all. Mr. Hutcherson did not answer and Principal Randy Taylor decided to reprimand the teacher for asking her question while publicly apologizing to Mr. Hutcherson for the incident.

We in the valley have been struggling with this issue since the day it happened. We believe the majority of parents in the valley support equal rights for all and are confused and angered by the schools decision to invite Mr. Hutcherson as well as their bad decision to reprimand the teacher for her actions. Put simply, this is unacceptable. We have voiced our concerns to the administration and the school board both in writing and in person at the school board meeting. In fact one student stood up to speak at the last board meeting who is a member of the LGBT students at Mt Si. She was very poignant in illustrating the abuse she has suffered within the school because of her sexual orientation. She was also very clear about how offensive she found the schools actions in subjecting her to listen to a well known bigot during a compulsory assembly.

Meanwhile, with apology in hand, Mr. Hutcherson has mounted a national campaign against two teachers at Mt Si who dared to stand up for their students. Mr. Hutcherson continues to press for the removal of these teachers with the help of national organizations like Focus On The Family as well as his own parishioners.

To date no actions have been taken to apologize to the student body for inviting Mr. Hutcherson in the first place. This invitation, along with last year's senior skit entitled 'Adam and Steve' which completely denigrated the LGBT students in attendance was not only not discouraged, but the skit won first place. In addition to this travesty, on the Day of Silence some students wore hate t-shirts like "I Love Gays – DEAD" while the administration turned a blind eye. In addition, we have testimonials to the effect that when a student complained to Mr. Taylor about verbal and physical harassment on the Day of Silence he responded; "That's just part of the game isn't it?"

As parents we don't like this game. We feel our schools should be safe and accepting of all students in our community. We are not so naïve as to believe all students will embrace equality as they come to school with their own bias and points of view. We do however expect our educators to at least minimize the presence of bias and discrimination in our schools by using good judgment. The school administration in this case has failed repeatedly to protect all of our children.

The School Board and the MSHS administration seem unable or unwilling to find a proper solution to this issue. At this time, I would like to request that your office begin a formal investigation into this matter and provide guidance to the board.

There are many parents that are talking about taking legal action against the district for bias and discrimination, but we are hopeful that the State can step in to help us find a resolution to this matter.

As Senator Murray put it in a letter to Mr. Taylor;

"…, to not disavow Hutcherson's presentation at your school will continue to amount to an endorsement of his views and values – neither of which follow in the footsteps of Martin Luther King."

There is a web site where parents are collaborating in finding a solution to this matter. There is a good deal of background information here, as well as numerous reports in the media surrounding the event. The web site is http://mtsiparents.blogspot.com/

Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.

Dan Ferland, MSHS Parent

Dr. Bergeson can be contacted at Terry.Bergeson@k12.wa.us



Anonymous said...

Perfect! Thank you!!!

Anonymous said...

Did you send a copy to the papers? Very eloquently stated. Thank you for writing this letter.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the poll should read:

Do you think if someone suggested inviting Mr. Hutcherson to speak at MSHS again that he would be invited?
Yes or No.

Based on all the official response to date this seems to be an open question. There is nothing in the letter from the Principal or the Superintendent that suggests that anybody might think this would be a bad idea. Perhaps the Superintendent of Public Instruction will guide the district administration toward a more appropriate response that affirms: 1) inviting him to speak, again, was not such a good idea.
2) there is a place for respectfully asked questions, related to the topic of the presentation, and directed to the moderator in a mandatory assembly at a public High School.

Respectfully, Mark Joselyn

Anonymous said...

Wow, you folks are fast!

I would encourage any and all parents, students and community members to voice their concerns to Dr. Bergeson personally.

You can contact Dr. Bergeson at Terry.Bergeson@k12.wa.us

And no, I have not sent this to the papers.

-Dan Ferland