Saturday, March 4, 2006

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A mock war-crimes trial of President Bush at a Parsippany high school continued Friday, despite criticism from people across the nation who heard about the classroom exercise from a prominent Web site and talk-radio programs.

James Dwyer, Parsippany-Troy Hills School District interim superintendent, said the mock hearing in the 12th-grade politics and government class would continue, but a verdict by a five-teacher “international court of justice” panel would not be rendered as originally planned.

After a two-hour meeting with the school board president, the high school principal and a curriculum superintendent, Mr. Dwyer said Friday that the project was in keeping with the district’s curriculum and had received prior administrative approval.

The class is an advanced-placement elective, he said, and the lesson explores current events and foreign policy in an interactive way.

“The focus is on the process itself, not on any outcome,” Mr. Dwyer said.

Phone messages left at Parsippany High School for the course’s instructor, Joseph Kyle, were not returned. Mr. Dwyer said Mr. Kyle has taught with the district for eight years.

Mr. Dwyer said he and the school’s principal have received more than two dozen e-mails and phone calls about the course since the Drudge Report Web site posted a link to a newspaper article about the class. Talk-radio programs also apparently have discussed the course, Mr. Dwyer said, and listeners contacting the district were 10-1 against allowing the mock hearing.

But students involved in the project, which began Monday after several weeks of research, said the decision to hold a mock trial over Mr. Bush’s purported “crimes against civilian populations” and “inhumane treatment of prisoners” had been agreed upon by all 27 classmates.

Catherine Galdun, one of the student prosecutors, told the Daily Record of Parsippany that she would have been upset had the trial been halted.

“I would say that we’re doing this in a fair and balanced way,” said Catherine, 18. “We’re looking at both sides of it. If [critics] don’t believe that’s right to do in a classroom — to debate both sides of an issue — I don’t agree with that.”

Township Council Vice President James Vigilante, an Air Force reservist, said he could see both sides. “I’m a Bush fan. I don’t necessarily, myself, agree with the lesson plan, but on the flip side, I wouldn’t condemn the teacher,” he told the newspaper.

Mr. Vigilante, a Republican, added, “For me, it’s the right of free speech.”

The mock hearing is expected to conclude this week.

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