- The Washington Times - Monday, March 18, 2013

Michael Mayberry, another former student at Worthington Kilbourne and one of Mr. Bishop’s friends, was shocked by some of things he heard from the Westboro speakers.

“When you have someone come in and tell you you’re going to hell, it can mess with your mind,” Mr. Mayberry said. “I’m sure if I were gay, I would have probably felt a little endangered. Not that we were actually in danger, but when you see the face of hatred, it’s terrifying.”

For her part, Westboro’s Ms. Phelps-Roper admitted it can be “a bit awkward” when she speaks to students. “Sometimes it gets really emotional,” she said, “and I’m sorry about that, I’m sorry that they’ve been lied to.”

Mr. Strausbaugh called such hate groups “crazy.”

Two years ago, the Kilbourne teachers invited Westboro members to come to Columbus and speak to the students, but afterwards the church picketed outside another nearby school, angering many in the local community. Ever since, the school has been Skyping with Westboro, instead, to avoid another confrontation.

Westboro’s Ms. Phelps-Roper realizes some teachers may only invite her to speak so they can ridicule her message of hate. She calls them “mockers” and “scoffers,” but doesn’t let it discourage her.

“I thank God for those teachers,” Ms. Phelps-Roper said. “Whatever their reason is for having us, we’re very thankful for any opportunity we get and we don’t care what their agenda is.”

Anti-discrimination groups, such as the Jewish right Anti-Defamation League and the civil rights watchdog the Southern Poverty Law Center, declined to comment on the class. The ADL, however, acknowledged they are aware of the hate groups speaking at Worthington Kilbourne and that they also have made presentations to the students there.

Neo-Nazi groups

The Ohio school has also invited John Taylor Bowles, a lobbyist for the American Nazi Party, to speak with students several times over the last few years, although he is not on the schedule for the current school year.

On his neo-Nazi blog, Mr. Bowles brags about speaking to an Ohio school, where his message was “well-received” and that some students “even expressed support for the American Nazi Party.”

“Students came up and shook my hand at the end of the class,” Mr. Bowles wrote. “This was the first time in four years that this happened!!!”

Mr. Bowles tried to hide the name of the school and declined to comment, but Mr. Strausbaugh confirmed he spoke to his class at Worthington Kilbourne. He said Mr. Bowles talked to the students about “race wars,” and tried to convince them that America would be at peace if white people would move to the North, black people would move to the South, Jewish people would move to Long Island, and Hispanic people would move to the Southwest.

Mr. Strausbaugh said the KKK has also spoken to students at his school in the past, but that was before he began teaching the class.

The hate groups are usually on their “best behavior” when they visit the classrooms, Mr. Strausbaugh said, because they want to “impress the kids.”

Story Continues →