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Nuclear Fiasco


Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
Reported by Japan Today:

Atlanta school board pulls plug on A-bomb survivors' talk

=> http://www.japantoday.com/e/?content=news&cat=1&id=214167&display=all

Here's an article by the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Unwelcomed Japan activists visit DeKalb kids

Shelia M. Poole - Staff
Thursday, May 2, 2002

A dozen members of a Japanese peace delegation on Wednesday defied the DeKalb County school system's last-minute decision to cancel its visit to Towers High School.

The delegation, which included survivors of U.S. atom bombing attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II, bypassed officials by talking to students as they left for the day. Eventually, at the request of school officials, they moved off the school grounds.

Crawford Lewis, executive director of school administration for DeKalb schools, said officials decided to cancel the visit because it seemed to focus "on personal and political opinion."

"I think when the invitation first went out on the part of the school, it was to provide students with an eyewitness account of Hiroshima and give them a real-life experience," he said. But a flier distributed about the group identified them as activists and said they would discuss their belief that the United States will someday again use nuclear weapons.

"That's where it got really salty for us," Lewis said.

Host Steve Leeper said he received a call Tuesday night that school officials felt the visit would be "too political."

But Leeper said any discussion of possible U.S. use of nuclear weapons would have come at other events, not the school. Members of the group said through a translator that they hope to build a relationship with the students and inform them of the horrors of nuclear weapons.

"At school, we are just going to tell the stories of A-bomb survivors and what they suffered and experienced," Leeper said.

Still, the school's decision didn't deter Haruko Moritaki, who twice skirted past a security guard to talk to students and pass out brightly colored paper cranes symbolizing peace.

"She told me about the atom bomb, shook my hand and said thank you," said Darrell Brown, 18, who towered over the tiny Moritaki. "We're in a war right now and it's no telling what will happen. I want to know what they did to survive."

Hiro Yuki, 70, said he was not surprised that officials would cancel the visit.

"The United States has an advanced way of thinking, but at the same time it has a very conservative way of thinking."

The board's decision drew criticism from some students and parents. "It's wrong," said 16-year-old Athena Davis.

Sam Bell watched the group arrive as he sat on the trunk of his car waiting for his daughter, Brittany, to leave school.

"It's a learning process," said Bell. "It's a part of history. I don't see what reason they [school officials] would have to stop them from coming. "

Students complained they had spent the last few days decorating the school and learning Japanese words, only to be disappointed.

Randy Fretwell, a teacher's aide at Towers, came out to apologize for the slight. He said the visit would have highlighted "man's inhumanity to man."

Fretwell said he didn't fear repercussions for talking with the visitors: "In a democracy, a man should be able to say what he feels."

The group will participate in a forum at 7 p.m. today at Druid Hills Methodist Church.

Copyright © The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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