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WEST HIGH TO PROCEED WITH CONCERT

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West High School will proceed with its annual holiday concert series as scheduled, Principal William Boston said in a news conference Friday, although he conceded that much of the programming is considered Christian in nature.

Boston responded to a parent's allegation that the concert series, now a tradition for more than 20 years, violates some students' constitutional rights."The attorney for the Salt Lake City Board of Education examined the claims and informed us that West High was in compliance with the legal requirements of Utah law and the U.S. Constitution," Boston said, reading from a prepared statement. "We are committed to doing what is best for our students."

Eric Bauchman, whose sophomore daughter is a member of the chorale choir, is at the center of the controversy. Last month the Bauchmans, who are Jewish, filed a complaint alleging the concerts violate the constitutional separation of church and state because of their overt Christian nature.

"Eleven-twelfths of the program is religious in nature. Two Hebrew songs were thrown in as an afterthought, and one of them is secular in nature," Bauchman said. "I'd have a problem with the concerts even if they were held in a synagogue."

Although Bauchman is the sole complainant in the case, he said others have personally encouraged him but are themselves afraid of professional repercussions.

Boston said the concerts were being contested on three grounds: their location, content and the name "Christmas Concert." He said the last six or seven performances have been held in "a number of different" schools, churches and clubs because West High is too small to host them.

"Much (of the songs' content) would be considered of a Christian nature, but content selection is of a musical nature," Boston said. "These are the things the choral director wanted the group to achieve in performance.

"We will continue with the series as originally outlined, and we will do what is best and appropriate for our students," Boston said. "We have a very diverse student population, and we want to make sure we're sensitive to all these students."

Boston said a committee of students, parents, teachers and administrators is being organized to review the school's programming and activities. He couldn't say how many would be on the committee or when it would be organized. He did say the process would take "several months."

In the meantime, the student, who said she's been approached by peers who question the complaint and even call it "dumb," will not be required to participate in upcoming performances. Boston made assurances that her grades will not suffer.

Bauchman said his daughter will continue to participate in class but not in performances. Three concert choirs will perform 46 performances during December, West High choral director Richard Torgerson said.

"A kid has to sing that stuff in an academic environment every day? That's obscene," Bauchman said. "I don't care how it's been done all along. Utah is an international city. If they want the Olympics, they'd better wise up."