Our View: Name KIA
A missed opportunity, a school district failure, a community’s continued shame, and a valuable teaching tool.
Any number of descriptions could be used to sum up the Moffat County School District’s decision to bypass naming its newly reorganized elementary school after Maj. William E. Adams – a Craig native and Army helicopter pilot who died in Vietnam – and instead install the popular name, as determined by student vote, Sandrock Elementary.
Adams, who was killed in action in May 1971, in Vietnam while trying to evacuate wounded soldiers from a hostile area, received the Medal of Honor, perhaps the highest distinction our country can give.
But, it appears, the Medal of Honor recipient didn’t rate.
The Adams name finished a distant third in the voting, almost 100 votes behind the winning Sandrock name and only two ahead of the fourth-place candidate, Creekside.
The name outcome was a discussion item for the Editorial Board on Monday.
The board debated whether the school district’s defense of the winning Sandrock selection is reasonable and valid.
Essentially, the case district officials laid out is this: A naming process already had been established before the push began to name the school after Adams, and the Sandrock name respected the voice of the students, who chose the name through a vote, and thus the integrity of the democratic process.
Although there is some merit to this, the Editorial Board also takes issue with the outcome of the naming process.
The school district, Editorial Board members contend, was given a golden opportunity to right a wrong in this community and provide Adams, a native son, with the respect he deserves and doesn’t have right now in his hometown.
Right or wrong, the district chose otherwise.
It could have sent a message to students and residents that it’s respectful to honor the dead, especially when that person exhibited such heroism as Adams did 28 years ago.
It could have recognized that the validity of the Adams name was greater than its established process and that honoring the late veteran was a lesson at least equally important for students as the democratic process.
Instead, the district moved forward, as if it was in a bubble and the name was the same as any other.
However, it’s wise to stop short of piling too much on the school district. The Editorial Board would be remiss if it didn’t play devil’s advocate for a moment.
The responsibility for overlooking Adams in this community doesn’t rest solely on the school district.
That burden belongs to the whole community, which has largely ignored his legacy for nearly 30 years.
How can the district be solely to blame for not paying proper respect to a name that, up to this point, not many have?
It also could be argued that the district was justified in sticking with the students’ vote, reinforcing the legitimacy and importance of voting, a lesson that’s difficult to imprint on anyone, young or old, in these cynical times.
Finally, it also should be said that the district was put in a difficult, almost impossible situation with the school naming after the Adams suggestion came in.
Whatever the decision turned out to be, it was going to be unpopular with segments of the community.
Is that fair? Probably not.
But, fair or not, that’s the task the district faced.
Unfortunately, instead of doing what was right – maybe not right within the confines of the classroom, but what was indeed right in the world outside it – the school district hid behind its process and watched as the injustice to Adams continued.
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