YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


The Road to Peace

May 28, 2000

Challenger Middle School teacher Bruce Galler and the 19 students who accompanied him to Washington, D.C., this holiday weekend deserve credit for bringing their idea for a national "Increase the Peace Day" all the way from Lancaster to the U.S. House of Representatives.

The trip has been a real-life civics lesson, with the students gathering petitions, writing a resolution and meeting with Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-Santa Clarita), who introduced their resolution in the House.

But it's more than just an exercise. Galler and his students are trying to confront the real-world problems of hate and violence. Their travels this past year included a visit to Littleton, Colo., site of the Columbine High School shootings.

And their work will not stop when they return home to the Antelope Valley tomorrow.

Indeed, the journey that led teacher and class to Washington began at home when Galler, grading English tests, came across two papers marked with swastikas. Galler confronted the students and met with their parents, seizing the moment to teach the history of the symbol and the hurt it inflicts on a community.

The Antelope Valley has had its share of hate crimes and has learned to keep an eye out for warning signs. Earlier this year, a synagogue was vandalized with Nazi graffiti. Last fall, three skinheads were convicted in the murder of a homeless black man.

Now the community is reeling from the fatal beating of an 18-year-old at a party. The young man was hospitalized and died two days later from head injuries. Last week Littlerock High School students were arrested in the case.

It was the second time in six months an Antelope Valley youth was killed in a brawl. The certain lesson is that fists are no way to settle disputes. But the deaths, grievous enough, are complicated by questions about racial overtones.

A national peace day is laudable for the spotlight it directs on the need for tolerance and understanding. But more crucial still is the kind of day-to-day attention demonstrated by Galler toward his students.

Parents, teachers and other adults need to be watchful and willing to confront conflict among young people, to do what they can to increase the peace, day by day.

Los Angeles Times Articles