DUNKERTON, Iowa --- Advocacy groups added their voice Wednesday afternoon to the ongoing controversy hanging over the Dunkerton School District.
Iowa Safe Schools, the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, One Iowa, Iowa Pride Network and the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa in a letter urged administrators “to carefully consider the programs they present to students,” according to an email from Veronica Fowler, communications director of ACLU of Iowa.
The letter was distributed to hundreds of schools across Iowa, Fowler added, and includes a specific warning about Bradlee Dean; his group, You Can Run But You Cannot Hide; and its band, Junkyard Prophet.
The group performed March 8 in Dunkerton for the district’s junior and senior high school students. Outrage erupted even before Dean and his colleagues left the building as some students called or sent text messages to their parents.
The group, according to witnesses, talked about many topics, but also talked about its opinions on homosexuality. The presentation also included images of aborted fetuses.
The letter distributed by the ACLU notes the apology offered by Dunkerton administrators.
“But it is hard to undo some of the harmful effects the event had on students,” one passage offers.
Not everyone was offended, however. Many who attended Dean’s “community conversation” Monday night at Faith Assembly of God Church in Elk Run Heights said they appreciated the group’s message and efforts.
“I want them to see it,” said Mary Jean Russell of Dunkerton, who helped arrange Dean’s return visit.
“We say the Pledge of Allegiance, and those teachers get paid in dollars that say, ‘In God We Trust,’’ Russell added.
Dean during the event said he wasn’t clear what the problem was.
“It’s amazing to me how an assembly that was fantastic is turned from a positive assembly to, ‘There’s big bad Brad,’” Dean said Monday night.
About 20 protesters showed up as well, however, and a special school board meeting Tuesday night in Dunkerton at times turned into a shouting match. Several participants called on Superintendent Jim Stanton to resign, though others expressed equally strong support.
The Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., this year added Dean’s organization to its annual list of hate groups, coincidentally released on the same day Junkyard Prophet performed in Dunkerton.
Administrators Wednesday were also reportedly dealing with incidents of what was described as bullying by students in the Dunkerton school.
An affected parent, who declined to be identified in print, said her student has faced verbal insults. The parent, who opposes Dean’s message, added she is concerned for her child’s safety and emotional well-being.
The ACLU and associated organizations argue Dean’s group “focused on its personal religious and highly controversial views.”
“Assemblies like the one last week have no place in our public schools,” the letter concludes.