An exhibit honoring war dead won't be displayed at Millard high schools this year, and the exhibit's promoter isn't happy.
Principals at Millard North, West and South High Schools passed up an offer to display the Remembering Our Fallen exhibit because of “scheduling and logistics” reasons, according to Rebecca Kleeman, the district's communication coordinator.
District administrators were also concerned that allowing the exhibit on school grounds might legally obligate the district to allow less tasteful exhibits in the future, Kleeman said.
“Someone else could come in and say, 'Well, I need to put up a display dishonoring soldiers,' and then we have difficulty,” she said.
The decision upset display co-creator and promoter Bill Williams, who said other metro-area districts have agreed to display the traveling exhibit that honors sailors, airmen and soldiers lost in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“It's disrespectful and insulting,” he said.
The exhibit features photographs of deceased veterans with ties to Nebraska and western Iowa. Among them, Williams said, is Jeremy Jones, a 1999 graduate of Millard West. Jones, an Army corporal, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2006.
The Nebraska exhibit has traveled the state for 22 months. It is scheduled to visit 15 high schools by the end of the school year, including Westside, Burke and Bellevue East and West.
Last week, students at Papillion-La Vista South High School had a chance to view it in their school's atrium.
Papillion-La Vista spokeswoman Annette Eyman said the district has lots of military families and has a close relationship with Offutt Air Force Base. Allowing the exhibit made sense, Eyman said.
“I thought it was really amazing,” she said. “The personal touch, with the personal notes. It's powerful.”
Kleeman said Millard principals felt pressure to make a quick decision. Booking the exhibit for April, the next open date, was problematic, she said.
“They have state assessments. It is a difficult scheduling month,” Kleeman said.
She said Williams said the display would need to be near the entrance to the school and accessible to the public, which raised parking and security concerns.
Kleeman said the high schools already make an effort to honor veterans.
At Millard North, students on Veterans Day watch a video presentation honoring veterans, including staff members, she said. Millard South has been recognized by the Department of Defense for support of military spouses. Students send care packages to active military personnel. Hundreds of Millard West students will visit the American Soldier exhibit at the Durham Museum, she said.
She said principals would be open to having students visit the exhibit at an off-campus location, accompanied by a teacher.
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