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Top educators: gruesome video has no validity in school.

One Lakeside, Calif., teacher allegedly told students, "That's what we get for being in a war we shouldn't be in." Another teacher supposedly said gruesome violence is on both sides of the Iraq war. And an Orange Unified School District teacher in California allegedly told students, "This is the enemy we're up against, and these are the things you don't get to see."

These are the reported explanations why several teachers in California "allowed high school students to watch the Internet video of the beheading of American Nicholas Berg in Iraq in May. Teachers in at least five other states, including Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas, have been disciplined or investigated for showing the video or allowing students, as young as 14, to watch the gruesome act.

While nationally there .is no policy or standard by which teachers must abide, two national education leaders say they don't see any educational value in showing the video or letting students see a decapitation occur.

"I'm reluctant to have codes mad requirements put in place, but it's pretty clear to me that teachers are responsible for the physical mad emotional welfare of children," says Paul Houston, executive director of American Association of School Administrators. "I think that when you show something that graphic and that timely in terms of it being so immediate, where do you draw the line?"

Michael Pons, a National Education Association spokesman, agrees with Houston, saying the timeliness of the video is much different from watching Holocaust videos or movies, highlighting piles of dead bodies, in the 1960s and '70s while he was in school. "It was historical material, not contemporary," he says about those movies. But Pons adds that it' "someone came to show very graphic footage of what was going on in Vietnam [at the time] there would have been heated discussions on both sides."

Houston says children need to know the cruelties of war and evil that lurks in the world but "you don't have to put it in their faces." Administrators can't chose to "look away" or indirectly "encourage" teachers to do this, Houston says. He adds that those teachers should be treated based on their past performance. If this is a one-time lack of judgment, or "dumb thing," they shouldn't be harshly punished. But if the teacher consistently walks "along the edge" with such judgment errors, they should be punished.

Pons declined to say whether he thinks teachers showing this video should be fired. The NEA allows individual school district boards to set policy on what is and isn't appropriate to be shown in class, he says. Some districts are reviewing current policies and establishing new ones due to the Berg video incidents.
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Title Annotation:Update: education news from schools, businesses, research and government agencies
Author:Pascopella, Angela
Publication:District Administration
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2004
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