Free Speech Rights Prevail!

Press Release Friday, Feb. 22, 2013 for immediate release 8:30PM
Re: Peace Activist Jim Albertini to Speak again at Hilo High School
Controversy appears resolved.

contact: Jim Albertini Malu ‘Aina Center For Non-violent Education & Action P.O. Box AB Ola’a (Kurtistown) Hawai’i 96760 Phone 808-966-7622 Email ja@malu-aina.org Visit us on the web at www.malu-aina.org

According to Jim Albertini, “to everyone’s credit a Win-Win situation seems to have prevailed at Hilo High School.  I’m rescheduled to speak again at Hilo High School.”
Albertini said, “I would especially like to thank attorney Eric Seitz and the American Civil Liberties Union in helping to resolve the matter, but also Principal Robert Dircks, teacher Joseph Watts, and all the people who expressed concerns on the issue, pro and con.  It’s been a real exercise of expressing and listening to the voice of our community. I trust we all have leaned something from the experience.  I look forward to sharing with the students of Hilo High School.  Aloha to all.”

Here’s the background:
I was informed on Wednesday, Feb. 20th in the late afternoon that my scheduled speaking dates of March 6th and 8th at Hilo H.S. had been canceled, because threats were made and the content of my speaking “was going to disrupt the school.”  I contacted the Honolulu office of The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for assistance on Thursday morning, Feb. 21st.  ACLU Legal Director Lois K. Perrin talked with attorney Eric Seitz who said he would be happy to assist in the matter.  Attorney Seitz, representing me, wrote a letter to Hilo H.S. Principal, Robert Dircks, informing him that unless my invitation to speak was reinstated by the close of Feb. 22nd, a civil liberties lawsuit would be filed in Federal Court to compel the school to do so.

On Friday morning 9:57AM, Feb. 22nd I sent Principal Dircks  the following “Proposal for a Win-Win situation” with copies to Mayor Kenoi and attorney Eric Seitz.

Aloha Principal Dircks, Mayor Kenoi, and Attorney Seitz,

Here is a draft proposal as a way to possibly defuse the charged atmosphere, create a Win-Win situation
and avoid a first amendment lawsuit? It’s made in good faith. Your feedback would be appreciated.

1. Have Principal Dircks publicly state I’ll speak to the classes at a later unspecified date, but within the next month.
2. My speaking can be in a classroom, not necessarily the Hilo H.S. Library.
3. No publicity on dates I will speak so it doesn’t draw right wing opposition to the school.

– Jim Albertini Malu ‘Aina Center For Non-violent Education & Action P.O. Box AB Ola’a (Kurtistown) Hawai’i 96760 Phone 808-966-7622 Email ja@malu-aina.org Visit us on the web at www.malu-aina.org

PS Principal Dircks, I am disappointed that you have not responded to my phone call and email to dialogue. Teacher Joseph Watts informed me that you said “threats” were made. I emailed to ask you if the threats were to you, the school, or myself and if you have notified police to investigate but I haven’t heard from you. Why?

At 12:30 PM Friday, I received a cordial phone call from Principal Dircks, apologizing for not calling earlier.  He said he liked my proposal.  I said since I was now represented by council, it would be best for him, or the school’s attorney, to contact my attorney, Eric Seitz.

At 1:40PM Friday I received a phone call from attorney Eric Seitz saying it appears an agreement has been reached for me to speak again at Hilo H.S. but the dates may have to be adjusted because of security concerns. Attorney Seitz will be working with the State Attorney General’s office on a letter of understanding and that filing the Federal Court case would not be needed.

At 1:56PM I received the email below from Principal Dircks:

Aloha, Mr. Albertini. I appreciate the conversation that you and I had. Again, I humbly apologize for my delay in response.

I appreciate your draft proposals. I am currently working with my leadership team in view of the unexpected turn of events relating to some e-mails that were sent after the original plans were made. What started out as an organized, well- developed classroom presentation plan, ended up to where we are now with the need to ensure a safe and secure learning environment for all my students.

I am currently working with Mr. Watts on a plan to keep to a similar timetable as expressed between Mr. Watts, yourself and the other presenters. In my minds-eye, I do not expect a debate or forum but to have the varying positions shared on different days. This will allow students to focus on the presentation of the speaker and facilitate a question and answer period from our students.

Hilo High School always welcomes community members to speak on topics that are aligned to our social studies standards.

Mahalo,

Robert Dircks