By Karen Gutierrez
Enquirer staff writer
FORT THOMAS - A mother here is angry that her sixth-grade son was required to make a pro-John Kerry poster at a Catholic school.
Shea Vara-Heck said she will complain to the Diocese of Covington about an Oct. 28 assignment at St. Thomas School.
As part of a lesson on democracy, sixth-graders used newspaper articles to research 10 positive points about Kerry and President Bush. The children then made pro-Kerry or pro-Bush posters, incorporating three of the items from the lists.
The posters were hung around the school in preparation for a mock election Friday, which Bush won handily.
Half of the sixth-graders, including Vara-Heck's son, 11-year-old Christian Heck, were assigned to do Kerry posters.
Vara-Heck said that as a Catholic, she opposed Kerry's candidacy because he supported abortion rights, stem-cell research and the granting of certain legal rights to gay couples. She didn't want her son exposed to such viewpoints, regardless of the lesson's purpose, she said.
In trying to help Christian make his poster, Vara-Heck suggested the slogan, "Kerry's got great hair." But Christian said that wouldn't work.
He also mentioned that Kerry's pro-choice position might be a reason some people would vote for him.
"I almost fell off my chair," Vara-Heck said.
Vara-Heck refused to have her son complete the assignment and complained to the teacher, Barb Hahn, as well as St. Thomas Principal Sharon Bresler. In e-mail exchanges with Vara-Heck, they defended the lesson as a research project about election issues.
When Vara-Heck asked that her son be given a different assignment, such as making a Ralph Nader poster, the school said Nader was not on the school ballot.
Christian received a zero on the homework.
When topics such as the death penalty or abortion came up in class, Hahn told the children the Catholic church's position but also explained that not all voters saw issues the same way, Bresler said.
"I can assure you that the children have been taught very clearly about the great immorality of abortion, and that it is clear to them that one of the candidates is emphatically pro-abortion, in great opposition to the church," Bresler wrote to Vara-Heck.
Bresler said the school was trying to show both sides.
"We couldn't show that with 98 percent of the posters for Bush and 2 percent for Kerry," she said.
Bush prevails at polls
George W. Bush's victory speech
Text of John Kerry's concession speech
What to watch for this term
Election fuss gave Blackwell a boost
Intense 2008 election forecast for Ohio
All those visits to SW Ohio paid off for the president
Voters look to the future
Ohio seeks vote answers
Academic gains helped levy win, but Cincinnati must cut
Democrats now occupy three posts in county
5 Hamilton County school districts passed tax levies
Lakota cuts; Fairfield restores
Warren vote count was slow, others OK
Once and future prosecutor promises he'll clean up office
Despite some long lines, voting was mostly smooth
Kids vote just like adults
Republicans bask in victory
Pro-Kerry homework irks Mom
IN THE TRISTATE
Butler coroner beaten, robbed leaving church
Road repairs go nowhere
Voters veto merger of 2 Franklins
Lemmie: Cops did no wrong
Tax plan seen as helping roadways
Bus ride cost could be going up; Metro seeks 13 percent increase
Forget it, Fox's foe says of campaign complaint
Princeton High presents 'Nevermore'
Public safety briefs
Local news briefs
Bronson: Bush's secret: Doug Corn's loyalty, work
Arthur Beach, 78, Middletown leader
Ali Center's topping out draws 'Greatest'
Boone dog park gets OK
Newport school board member is mourned
Fire in Falmouth zaps phone lines
N. Ky. news briefs