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Punishment Issued Against Port Huron Assistant Principal In Klan Prank

May 23, 1985

PORT HURON, Mich. (AP) _ An assistant principal who staged a mock Ku Klux Klan confrontation as a prank against a black teacher was punished Wednesday with a pay cut and was put on probation for the next school year.

The Port Huron Board of Education handed Walter Lyszak a $3,000 pay cut in addition to the probation, and also removed him from consideration as Port Huron Northern High School principal.

The punishment was taken against Lyszak after he staged a mock confrontation with James Jones, one of a handful of black teachers at the school, said Superintendent Larry Moeller.

According to Moeller, school secretaries were wearing white hooded school sweatshirts bearing the school’s ″Big Red″ insignia April 24 because it was cold in the school office. The sweatshirts vaguely resembled the white garments associated with the Klan.

Lyszak turned up the heat, asked the secretaries to keep their jackets on, then called Jones to the office, the superintendent said.

Moeller said that when Jones entered, Lyszak said, ″The Grand Wizard would like to speak to you in his office.″ Jones made a comment and walked out.

″We generally concur that the incident - while it indeed had extremely poor judgment ... and the subject was inappropriate in school or otherwise - it was not intended in a malicious fashion,″ Moeller said.

Jones accepted Lyszak’s apology, the superintendent said. Lyszak and Jones declined to comment on the prank.

Armstead Diggs, president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said Tuesday that Lyszak should be fired for the prank. Moeller said the punishment was the most severe disciplinary action short of dismissal.

The Port Huron Community Relations Board, calling the prank unfortunate and appalling, adopted a resolution Tuesday protesting the probationary action as insufficient but did not call for his dismissal.

The relations board said it was concerned the incident would spark racial tensions and asked the school district to prevent it from happening again.

″As an official arm of the city, we have taken a concerned stand against these kind of incidents. The city is concerned with our image,″ said Bill McGill, relations board chairman. ″We have a great city. We cannot, or will not, tolerate this kind of aggression.″

Students echoed the fear that the prank would fuel racial tensions.

″Even though it was a joke I don’t think (Lyszak) should have done that because of the way people could react,″ said 10th-grader Carl Jones. ″This school is full of blacks and whites. It could have started something.″

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