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Saturday, January 19, 2008 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Mt. Si High apologizes to MLK Day guest

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

Mount Si High School has issued an apology to a guest speaker and it is reconsidering its policy on whom it invites to speak during school assemblies after a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event turned sour.

During the 8:30 a.m. assembly Thursday, Ken Hutcherson, a controversial pastor from Redmond's Antioch Bible Church, was invited to speak about King's struggle to promote racial equality and about his own struggles to embrace racial acceptance and tolerance.

At the beginning of the assembly, Hutcherson was booed by a male language-arts teacher and, at the end, another teacher publicly questioned the pastor's views on gays and lesbians, said Principal Randy Taylor, who attended the assembly.

Hutcherson is known for his views against homosexuality and has gained notoriety for organizing massive local and national rallies against gay marriage

Hutcherson spoke for about 30 minutes, telling the 1,500 students sitting in the school gym about growing up amid racial prejudice and how that led him to hate white people, Taylor said. But, Hutcherson told students, he eventually came to accept King's teaching of acceptance and tolerance, and it transformed him.

As the assembly drew to a close, a female language-arts teacher stood and addressed Hutcherson with a rhetorical question.

"She said something to the effect of 'How can you preach a climate of acceptance and tolerance, but that doesn't apply to gays and lesbians?' " Taylor said. The teacher didn't pose the question disrespectfully, but it was not an appropriate time to begin such a dialogue, Taylor said.

The school isn't releasing the name of either teacher, he said.

The school issued an apology to Hutcherson over how he was treated during the assembly, Taylor said.

The assembly was organized by students, who invited Hutcherson to speak. A leadership-class teacher and an assistant principal signed off on the invitation, Taylor said. However, the school may review more closely whom it invites to speak, Taylor said.

Taylor said he is still in "fact-finding" mode as he looks into repercussions either or both teachers might face for their actions.

If a student were to boo a guest speaker, "there's no question in my mind" the student would face punishment, Taylor said.

"And I hold my staff to a higher standard than students," Taylor said. "It [the teacher booing] created confusion on the part of the students. If they see a staff member do it to a guest, they wonder, can I do that if I disagree with someone's views?"

Rachel Tuinstra: 206-515-5637 or rtuinstra@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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