SPRINGVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) - Drew Beiter, a social studies teacher at Springville Middle School, represented teachers across the country when he took part in a roundtable discussion with the Secretary of State on Tuesday.
Beiter, who is known for his efforts to teach lessons related to the Holocaust, was allowed to ask John Kerry questions about the U.S. response to Syria's alleged chemical weapons use.
"Why is it that there is such a concern now and not for the past year and a half in which the death toll has gone to six figures?" Beiter asked.
Kerry responded, "We have consistently spoken out against Assad's slaughter of his own people."
"And if you could please elaborate, why is the UN so visibly absent on this issue?" Beiter questioned.
Kerry said, "Because the Russians and the Chinese have blocked us I think now 11 or 12 times."
The social studies teacher was one of three panelists who were able to question the Secretary of State during a Google online roundtable discussion. Kerry said Syria must transfer its chemical weapons to international control and then have them destroyed.
Beiter and his colleague Joe Karb present lessons to their students relevant to what's been happening to the people of Syria.
"We spend a lot of time looking at the lessons of the Holocaust, and how we can prevent modern genocide, so what they can do to be involved," Karb explained.
Beiter was instrumental in creating a website for students to get involved called "I Am Syria." It also provides resource material for teachers.
"Our democracy requires that [students] pay attention and participate and that they can participate and these digital tools they enjoy make them the most powerful generation ever," Beiter said.
His students echo his teachings.
McKenzie Galvin said, "If we just keep watching, it's going to [accelarate] into something even worse, and who knows what could happen next?"
They watched the question and answer session with the Secretary of State, and are divided on how the U.S. should respond to Syria.
"I think that we should do something about the problems in Syria, but I don't think the air strike is a way to go," Hannah Moriarty said.
Sarah Guadagna said, "America would lose some respect, like all around the world, because we're looked at as very powerful."
Beiter says students must draw their own conclusions. But he agrees with President Obama in drawing the line on chemical weapons.
"If we don't stand up here," he said, "where is our ethical code?"
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