The Los Angeles Board of Education rejected a resolution Tuesday that would have condemned a U.S.-led attack on Iraq and instead approved an alternative motion supporting war-related debate and education on campuses.
The move came after reports that some students were punished last week for speaking and walking out in antiwar protests.
"If there are campuses where students are not being allowed to talk about [war] ... then McCarthyism is here. We've got it right on our campuses," said board member Genethia Hudley-Hayes, who sponsored the failed resolution.
In addition to Hudley-Hayes, Jose Huizar backed the measure, while board President Caprice Young and Marlene Canter opposed it and Mike Lansing abstained. Julie Korenstein and David Tokofsky were absent.
Hudley-Hayes cast the sole vote against the alternative motion, which was sponsored by Young, saying she thought it was a weak substitute. Young, Canter, Lansing and Huizar voted for the resolution encouraging war-related debate.
"I am strongly concerned that the students in our schools are being muzzled and that they're not being allowed to engage in debate," said Young. She said she did not support a war against Iraq but disagreed with the "biased" language of the antiwar resolution, which was partly patterned after one approved by the City Council.
The school board vote was originally scheduled to take place before last week's election, but was postponed. In the March 4 balloting for four of the seven seats, both Hudley-Hayes and Young were defeated for second terms and Lansing won reelection. Tokofsky awaits word on whether he will be in a runoff.
Some speakers Tuesday urged the board to reject the antiwar resolution, saying the district should not mix international politics with education.
"Our schools do not exist to promote your political views," said Jim Hake, a father of two Los Angeles Unified School District students. "Help our children learn how to think. Don't tell them what to think."
But others supported the resolution.
"It is these students who will possibly be forced to fight and die in this and future wars," said teacher Andy Griggs, speaking for a United Teachers-Los Angeles human rights committee and wearing a T-shirt that read: "A War Budget Leaves Every Child Behind."
Kameale Terry, student body president of Audubon Middle School, asked: "Why risk the lives of thousands of young people for war?
"As students from South L.A., we know how it feels to be at war in our communities, and to lose people to violence," she said. "We think this money could be better spent on education."