The school district reviewing the invite of Bill Ayers to a Napervile Illinois High School has canceled the appearance by the former terrorist and his wife Bernardine Dohrn. The community was up in arms after having learned of the invite. Also canceled was the post appearance book signing at Anderson's Book Shop in the same town.
School Superintendent Alan Leis released the following statement:
The appearance by Dr. Bill Ayers at Naperville North High School next week has been canceled.
On Friday, it was announced through a Talk203 email that we were reviewing the decision to invite him and that we were also exploring the possibility of moving the appearance to another venue. Initially, many people were upset about his appearance in a school building, even though it was to have been with a select group of students with required parental permission. Several people offered worthy suggestions about how to make the event more meaningful by concurrently inviting someone that would provide an equally strong opposing viewpoint.
Over the weekend, however, it became clear that this issue was not really about where Dr. Ayers was speaking, but that he was speaking at all. Each day, the level of emotion and outrage has seemed to increase, along with the number of emails and phone calls received. What was most unfortunate was that a few directed their anger toward an outstanding high school and at a well-regarded, award-winning teacher who encourages students to think for themselves.
While parents and others have written urging us to continue with the event because they want students exposed to diverse viewpoints, Dr. Ayers' appearance has clearly become a "lightning rod," both inside and outside the District 203 community, because of his past actions. It is clear that any value to our students would be lost in such a highly-charged atmosphere, and that any debate of issues or viewpoints would be overshadowed by media coverage and anger over the event itself.
Dr. Alan Leis, Superintendent of Schools
Naperville Community Unit School District 203
Chicago Breaking News noted the cancellations along with a statement by free speech advocate Gene Policinski.
"I simply wasn't comfortable that this was in our students' and our school's best interest," Supt. Alan Leis said Monday. "We tried to put some procedures in place, but clearly our community has let us know that they just don't think that's appropriate."
"The whole notion was to help students think critically. Instead, it was just a huge community debate," said Leis, who added comments came from both sides.
Also Monday, management at Anderson's Book Shop in Naperville canceled an appearance by Ayers, also scheduled for April 8. Store employee Candy Purdom declined to elaborate on the decision.
First Amendment scholar Gene Policinski called the school's cancellation of Ayers' speech an unfortunate example of the silencing that can happen to people who are seen as the extreme or on the fringe.
"It's worth saying that this can't be our overall approach to those who are controversial," said Policinski, vice president and executive director of the First Amendment Center, a non-partisan education-focused foundation based in Nashville and Washington D.C. "We need to hear from people -- the public needs to hear from people -- whose views we don't like, in part to know how to properly oppose them."
While free speech advocates claim that Ayers is simply on the fringe they fail to define fringe. Thus learning that Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn may be under investigation for the 1970 murder of a San Francisco police officer adds a little context to the term. This point is surely not in this conversation; at least not in the papers that I read.
American Thinker covered the reopening of the case on March 18, 2009.
On February 16, 1970, someone planted a bomb at San Francisco's Park Police Station. It was placed in a window of the business office and timed to explode at shift change, when the maximum number of officers would be there, either finishing up or starting their work.
It was a powerful blast, throwing one officer in the station parking lot completely over his patrol car and sending shrapnel for over two city blocks. The bomb fortunately detonated a few minutes early so the destruction was less than it might have been. Still, nine were wounded, one -- Officer Robert Fogarty -- badly enough that he retired from the force on disability, and one, Sergeant Brian McDonnell, 45 year old married father of two, was killed.
On Thursday, March 12, 2009, Cliff Kincaid of America's Survival Inc. held a press conference at the National Press Club, launching the Campaign for Justice for Victims of Weather Underground Terrorism, to focus public attention on evidence that may finally bring the alleged perpetrators to justice: Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn.
He has a lot of support. In a letter to Mr. Kincaid's group, the San Francisco's Police Officer's Association writes:
There are irrefutable and compelling reasons to believe that Bill Ayers and his wife Bernardine Dohrn, members of the terrorist group 'Weather Underground', are largely responsible for the bombing of Park Police Station and other police stations throughout the United States during their 'tour of terror' in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
This case has been reopened and evidence is being gathered. Meetings have been held among local and state authorities, including current and former law enforcement officials, to obtain justice. That is why the "Campaign for Justice for Victims of Terrorism" held this press conference. They want to bring pressure on Obama's Justice Department, now headed by former Clinton Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder, to release all of the evidence in their possession.
Free speech may be at work after all. Parents are rightfully upset over the appearance of former terrorists that may still be under investigation for murder. Their concerns were voiced loud and clear and the school district appears to have listened.
This latest set of cancellations comes immediately on the heels of a dis-invite by Boston College on Saturday.
Terry Trippany is the Watcher at Watcher of Weasels. Thanks goes out to all the NewsBusters readers that sent in the many links and e-mails concerning these events.