- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 20, 2004

FORT WORTH — Two Texas high school teachers were suspended Wednesday for showing students the video of the decapitation of American businessman Nick Berg by terrorists in Iraq.

History teacher Andy Gebert, 32, and health and science teacher Michelle White, 39, apologized for the video show at Northwest High School in Justin, Texas.

They had supervised the showing of the video, obtained via the Internet by one of the students. The video was seen by about 40 students Monday.

Both teachers had been placed on paid suspension Tuesday. After a brief meeting with school officials Wednesday, the teachers were suspended for the rest of the school year.

Keith Sockwell, superintendent of the Northwest Independent School District, said the showing of the video reflected “poor judgment” and was “inappropriate.” He said the two teachers would be ordered to undergo counseling.

Reports of similar viewings surfaced in North Carolina, California, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Ohio and Washington.

At Villa Park High School in Southern California, English teacher Stephen Arcudi told the Associated Press that he felt showing the video to his students was justified because it is important “to show atrocities on both sides.”

His superintendent, Robert French, did not agree. “This should not have happened,” Mr. French said. “I’d be curious about how he worked this into his teachings.”

“No way do I want my children to see this,” said Betsy Pollack, 42, who has two children at Northwest High. “They should have punished these two more than just a few days’ pay.”

Meanwhile, at least four teachers in California schools have been put on suspension.

At the Justin school, Jason Caron, a senior, said he had watched the execution via the Internet, copied it to a disk and gave it to another student at school. He said several students watched it in a computer class Monday.

“My teacher didn’t know we were looking at it,” he told the Dallas Morning News. “When she heard the screaming, she told us to turn it off.”

Jeanette Wood, whose 10th-grade daughter left class rather than watch the video, said she had been given an apology by Northwest High Principal Jim Chadwell.

“That’s not enough,” she said afterward.

A teachers advocate in Texas says school districts should have strict guidelines on how to handle such material.

“This is something we had all missed — the teachers association and school administrators,” said Larry Shaw, executive director of the United Educators Association. “We all missed it and should have given more guidance to teachers. But guidance wasn’t given.”

Richard Wampler, a psychology professor at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, said that though youngsters see a lot of violence on television and in movies, footage such as the Berg decapitation raised entirely different concerns.

“It’s an image that will haunt them whether they have nightmares about it or not,” he said.

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