War lyrics at student talent show angers parents

District launches investigation

The closing act at the Community Youth in Arts Show at the Intermediate School in Langley has some parents up in arms and the phones ringing off the hook at the school district’s office.

A high school student performed an original composition about the Iraq war at the annual show May 3, which offended some audience members and has since prompted an investigation by South Whidbey School District Superintendent Fred McCarthy.

“During the Community Youth in Arts Show an act that had not been screened was performed by a secondary student that was insensitive to military families, graphically violent, politically partisan and, in my opinion, inappropriate for a student talent show,” McCarthy said.

The district did not identify the student, or provide a copy of the work that caused the controversy.

The school district is not blaming the student, who apparently won’t face disciplinary action. Instead, it is apologizing to the community and parents for the content of the show and the lack of supervision.

“It’s not the student’s fault. It may show questionable judgement,” he said.

“The student has the First Amendment right to write whatever he wants. We’re the people to supervise,” McCarthy added.

The investigation is not completed, McCarthy said. He had returned Wednesday from a conference, and like a number of other school leaders, did not attend the show.

“I was not at the show,” said Eric Nerison, Intermediate School principal. “But there was an older student who closed the event with a politically charged lyrics.”

The key issue now is that the controversial act slipped by the screeners of the show. Nerison said he didn’t know how the student got to perform in the show.

The Intermediate School students had to go through a “casting” process, he explained, and their acts were screened. Nerison said he wasn’t sure how the high school student had slipped through the screening process.

The show was advertised for all age groups and young students also performed.

“Parents got up and left and were pretty upset about it,” Nerison said.

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