Teachers' Anti-War Message Draws Fire
SOUTH YARMOUTH, MA — Some students are calling for
the firing of two Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School teachers who held
an anti-war sign during a school assembly Friday.
History teacher Marybeth Verani and English teacher
Adeline Koscher made their silent protest during the part of the
assembly in which school officials recognized graduating seniors who are
entering the military.
"They not only imposed their political will,
they imposed it at the wrong time," said D-Y junior Andrew Bowles Jr.,
who organized an after-school protest yesterday that drew about 30
Parents and other community members
have flooded the high school principal's office with about 40 e-mails
and phone calls criticizing the teachers' actions.
"I honestly feel (the protest) was misplaced," said
D-Y parent Joanne Schuman of Yarmouth. "I think they should have been
removed from that event."
have voiced support for the two teachers, who were put on paid leave
until at least tomorrow, Verani said.
she and Koscher were not trying to undermine the students but "to
address the expansion of military recruitment of children in our
"I think we're supposed to open the
door for differences of opinion," said Verani, a longtime peace
activist. "We're not all in lock-step agreement on everything."
The protest unfolded during the senior last
assembly, when the high school gathers to recognize graduates for a
variety of achievements. For the last five years the recognition
ceremony has included the awarding of plaques to students entering
military service, said Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School principal
"Most schools don't recognize
students who go into the military," he said.
D-Y resource Officer Nicholas R. Pasquarosa Jr. addressed the crowd,
comparing the volunteer enlistees to a sheepdog standing between the
flock and a wolf, Verani and Koscher stood on the bleachers and held an
"end war" sign while everyone else sat.
to many was a sign of respect for the students was to the protesting
teachers a recruiting moment, said Verani, who noted that assistant
principal George Morrison, a National Guardsman, attended in military
"This was a captive audience," she
said, adding that the plaques should have been given out at an
after-school awards ceremony that was not compulsory attendance for all
Verani and Koscher tucked their sign
away and sat while the names of the six students entering the U.S.
Marine Corps, Army and National Guard were announced.
They remained seated while the rest of those at the
assembly gave the students a standing ovation.
and applauding is a sign of support for the decision these people have
made," Verani said. "I want them to be home and alive and well and going
to college and dating and having kids and coaching Little League."
The protest struck the wrong note with many
attendees, Jenks said.
"Large numbers of
students and faculty were upset," he said. "This is a recognition
ceremony, not a classroom debate."
the reaction was the attendance of Yarmouth police Lt. Steven Xiarhos,
who lost his son, U.S. Marine Cpl. Nicholas Xiarhos, to a roadside
bombing in Afghanistan in July 2009.
Xiarhos, a 2006 D-Y grad, was among the first group of students to
receive a plaque recognizing their military service.
Jenks would not comment on what sort of discipline
Verani and Koscher might face. "We're reviewing our options," he said.
"The reality is we follow due process."
who plans to join the Air Force ROTC when he graduates, said he wants
the teachers fired.
"I'm sick of seeing people
tarnishing the memory of our troops," he said as fellow students waved
the American flag and sang the national anthem on Station Avenue.
James Kinney of West Barnstable, who knows Verani
and wrote a letter to the editor of the Cape Cod Times in her support,
defended the teachers.
"I think that it's
important to show dissent," he said. "I think that's the highest form of
Maureen Tuohy-Bedford, whose son
Evan Tuohy-Bedford just graduated and has joined the U.S. Marine Corps,
wouldn't let the protestors ruin Friday's assembly.
"The ceremony was beautiful," she said. "So many
people did the right thing."