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Letter: St. Anthony's went too far

Exterior of St. Anthony's High School in South

Exterior of St. Anthony's High School in South Huntington, on Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Credit: Ed Betz

For transgressions deemed racially insensitive and inflammatory, four students were unilaterally expelled from St. Anthony's High School by the school principal, Brother Gary Cregan ["Expelled by high school," News, April 17]. There has been a real lesson taught here, but not the one Cregan might think.

The offenses involved two seniors bringing a Confederate flag to a school sports event, and two sophomores posting a photo of one of them in blackface on social media, along with a racially inflammatory rant.

The campus of a Catholic school is not the same as the public square, so I believe that the flag-bearers were properly deterred. The episode involving social media is not so simple.

In both incidents, the consequence of expulsion seems so egregiously dire as to strike the conscience of a reasonable person. Valuable life lessons may have been gained through resolving this by school-parent conferences. However, that was forfeited for the expediency of political correctness.

Rather than encouraging tolerance and a respect for different points of view, administrators at St. Anthony's have fostered an atmosphere of zero tolerance and conformity.

Jeffrey Converse, Locust Valley

St. Anthony's decision to expel two seniors for their stupidity was harsh. Other options could have included counseling, suspension, or exclusion from the senior prom or graduation.

Is the Confederate flag a symbol of racial intolerance, or is it just a flag? Brother Gary Cregan's letter to parents said that the Confederate flag is "a reminder of a painful past where our country went to war, resulting in over 600,000 killed, and thank God, the end of slavery." He has stated that "Saint Anthony's will always demand acceptance and respect for all races, religions and cultures."

In our expansion across this continent, the U.S. government maintained a policy of brutalization, hostility, insensitivity, prejudice, discrimination and near genocide of American Indian people. Is St. Anthony's policy consistent? What action has it taken against students wearing a Cleveland Indians hat, a Washington Redskins T-shirt or an Atlanta Braves jacket?

Are these teams' logos symbols of racial insensitivity or just a team's nickname? Some colleges have changed mascots or nicknames, including St. John's University, from the Redmen to the Red Storm, and Siena College, from the Indians to the Saints.

These young men will remember this incident for the rest of their lives, but how will they remember it? For their own racial insensitivity, or for St. Anthony's intolerance of their stupid and immature act?

Chet Lukaszewski, Huntington

Editor's note: The writer was a public high school social studies teacher for 36 years and wrote the curriculum for a Native American studies elective.