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Anti-hero policy prolongs pain

Unlike many communities across the United States, the Beaverton School District prohibits the naming of athletic fields for fallen heroes. Servicemen and women who are killed in action may not be memorialized in this manner.

The district’s policy, which was adopted nearly 24 years ago, states: “Facilities within a school, e.g., auditorium, athletic fields, etc., shall not be given separate names.” The policy has been dubbed an “anti-hero policy” for obvious reasons, but the policy can be changed by a majority vote of the seven-member Beaverton School Board.

U.S. Army Pfc. Andrew Keller, former football captain and a 2008 graduate of Southridge High School, was killed in Afghanistan on Aug. 15, 2012. Thousands of community members want the athletic field at Southridge to be named Andrew Keller Memorial Field. That won’t happen if the board won’t amend its policy, as the community has respectfully requested numerous times since last September.

At the School Board meeting on Monday evening, board members Mary VanderWeele, Tom Quillin and Linda Degman cogently expressed their support for changing the policy. But unfortunately, board members LeeAnn Larsen, Karen Cunningham and Sarah Smith reaffirmed their support for the policy, which ignobly devalues heroes. The seventh board member, Jeff Hicks, once a critic of the policy, has flip-flopped. For now, he is aligning with the anti-hero faction.

In a prior meeting, Larsen expressed concern that if the policy was changed, “what do we do about people who have come in the past and have been denied? How do you deal with that?”

Note that Larsen’s concern has nothing to do with the heart of the matter: whether to change policy so that the community may properly honor Pfc. Keller and other heroes. Rather, she seems afraid to be forced to admit that the policy has wronged people in the past.

How do you deal with that, Ms. Larsen? Saying, “I’m sorry,” to those wronged individuals would be a good place to start.

It is absurd to cling to this policy because the board has said “no” in the past. During America’s first 144 years, millions of women were denied the right to vote. Was that a valid reason to keep saying “no?”

In an email to a former Southridge football teammate of Pfc. Keller, Larsen wrote, “...it is difficult to change policy unless there is a new law or something of that magnitude that warrants the policy change.” Larsen gave the young man false information — no new law is required for the board to change policy. From the tone of the email, it seemed Larsen wanted to discourage an attempt to challenge the policy.

Board member Karen Cunningham has stated, “I keep telling myself, this isn’t about a situation, it’s about the policy.”

Applying Cunningham’s logic, civil rights hero Rosa Parks would have been told, “It’s not about the situation, it’s about the policy. You have to keep riding in the back of the bus.” Cunningham fails to realize that situations always impact policy, not the other way around. Policies are not static — they are malleable and must fit new realities.

In an email sent to supporters of Andrew Keller Memorial Field, board member Sarah Smith wrote, “How long will Andrew’s name be on the stadium before another request is brought forward to replace it?” This insensitive comment suggests that Pfc. Keller’s shining legacy will gradually fade away, and that is contemptible.

Smith also wrote, “...though many believe we should name the stadium after Andrew, many do not.” Are we to believe that the majority of people in the community do not support the naming of Andrew Keller Memorial Field? I challenge Smith to produce evidence that supports her claim. Christina Lent, managing editor of the Beaverton Valley Times and The Times serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, reports that both newspapers have not received even one letter opposing the memorial.

Hicks, citing sickness, failed to attend Monday’s board meeting, but he did send an email stating that he does not favor policy change. Just recently, Hicks supported amending the policy, and he’d said, “There is a unique specialness about this situation...it is a community feeling...and very powerful.” Hicks’ reversal seems particularly odious, because he is supposed to represent the Southridge community.

No final resolution on the anti-hero policy has been made, and that’s good news. It is not too late for board members Larsen, Cunningham and Smith to renounce their anti-veteran, anti-hero ways, and depending on which way the wind blows tomorrow, Hicks may once again find himself on the honorable side of this issue.

But should this unjust policy be allowed to stand, these obtuse board members will rightly face a storm of protest. For now, this gang of four deserves not our admiration, but our scorn.

Alan Lohner is an author from Tigard, and his two sons attended Southridge High School.




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