Albertini Lecture on Democratic Actions Back On at Hilo High
by Dave Smith
Although real-life circumstances of late may prove more illuminating to them than any words could be, students at Hilo High School will receive a presentation from peace activist Jim Albertini on participating in a democracy.
Early last week plans had been made to have Albertini speak to several social studies classes on the subject. However, those were put in question after the school’s librarian objected to having the presentation at the library.
Hilo High Principal Robert Dircks then said Tuesday that the lecture would be allowed. On Wednesday he reversed himself, citing a backlash from the community that included a threat that he said would disrupt school activities.
On Friday he reversed his decision again after being contacted by a lawyer representing Albertini. The Honolulu attorney, Eric Seitz, wrote to Dircks on Friday to say if the lecture was not allowed to occur he would file a First Amendment lawsuit in federal court.
Albertini said he received an email from Dircks early Friday afternoon that said the presentation was back on.
“To everyone’s credit, a win-win situation seems to have prevailed at Hilo High School,” Albertini said in a statement. “It’s been a real exercise of expressing and listening to the voice of our community.
“I trust we all have leaned something from the experience,” he said. “I look forward to sharing with the students of Hilo High School.”
Dircks’ email, a copy of which was provided by Albertini, said that a timetable for the lecture was being worked out.
“What started out as an organized, well- developed classroom presentation plan, ended up to where we are now with the need to ensure a safe and secure learning environment for all my students,” it said.
The lecture was originally planned to be given on March 6 and 8, but Albertini has since requested that the date of his presentations not be publicized to avoid a confrontation with “right-wing opposition.”
Albertini said Seitz informed him that the state Attorney General’s office will be working on a “letter of understanding” regarding the timing of the presentation.
While Dircks had previously mentioned the possibility of having another speaker to provide a viewpoint in opposition to Albertini’s anti-military message, his email Friday said that he now plans to have that opposing viewpoint presented on different days.
“This will allow students to focus on the presentation of the speaker and facilitate a question and answer period from our students,” it said.
“Hilo High School always welcomes community members to speak on topics that are aligned to our social studies standards,” Dircks’ email Friday said.
Department of Education spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz today confirmed that the lecture will go forward in a manner that would not be disruptive or threaten the safety of students.
As she did last week, Dela Cruz declined to discuss the nature of the threat Dircks said he had received.