West High School co-valedictorian Trevor Dryer borrowed a fifth-grade girl's account of "Little Red Riding Hood" to give perspective to the events that rocked the school community this past year.
The child recounted the story from the wolf's perspective, explaining that he had been lured to the grandmother's house by a provocative young woman; how he had narrowly escaped and how he then planned a weekend trip with three pigs, hoping they would be more civilized.Speaking at the school's graduation exercises Wednesday night at Abravanal Hall, Dryer urged his fellow graduates to open their minds and hearts to the perspectives of others.
Given the controversies: the selection of the novel "House of Spirits" for the school's International Baccalaureate program, A cappella Choir, gay clubs, class rank, early retirement of principal Bill Boston and other issues, it has been difficult for students to ascertain "who is Red Riding Hood? Who is the wolf?" Dryer said.
But as the graduates prepared to go out into the world, the rich diversity they had experienced at West would help them understand others' points of view, he said. "The power of perspective is the power to bring people together," Dryer said.
Many in the audience feared the commencement ceremony would be disrupted by a group calling itself the Utah Liberation Army. The group had run classified ads in the Private Eye Weekly for several weeks seeking volunteers to "moon" the West High A cappella Choir if it performed the song "Friends" during the ceremony.
There were no disruptions, possibly due to the presence of about 20 uniformed security officers and the fact that admission to the ceremony was only granted to ticket holders.
"Friends" was the focal point of West's 1995 graduation ceremonies. Rachel Bauchman, then a sophomore and member of the choir, sought and obtained a federal court order banning the performance of the song at last year's commencement, claiming it violated her constitutional rights to be required to perform Christian music as part of the school curriculum. Bauchman is Jewish.
Many graduates and members of the audience sang the song anyway, which gave impetus to a lawsuit. The suit was dismissed last fall, and last Friday a federal judge rejected an attempt to revive an amended complaint.
"Lord Bless and Keep You," a song protested in Bauchman's original complaint, was mentioned in a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals case, and federal courts have ruled since last year's much-publicized graduation hoopla that it is acceptable to sing Christian songs as part of school curriculum.
Wednesday evening, the choir unabashedly sang "Friends" and a Negro spiritual with lyrics that included the chorus "Going home to meet with God." The songs prompted some members of the audience to give the choir a standing ovation, with nary a moon in sight.
Principal LaMar Sorensen, who came out of retirement to lead the school after Boston retired mid-year, commented on the school's academic achievements. Ninety-two of 357 graduating seniors had 3.5 grade point averages or better. "This is a major educational ac-complishment for West High," he said.
The school houses the district's gifted and talented and IB programs.
Sorensen said he was particularly proud of 19 Polynesian students who, through the guidance of a joint program offered through Salt Lake Community College and West, were graduating on time. "All 19 are here tonight," he said.
Sorensen shared the dias with his successor, Joyce Gray. Gray joins the school as principal after serving as principal of Bryant Intermediate School.