Schools superintendent Sandra Lyon is calling for peaceful counter-protests to the planned anti-gay picket at Santa Monica High School.
In a letter denouncing the planned Westboro Baptist Church picket as "hateful" and "potentially dangerous," Lyon urged anyone participating in a counter-protest to do so peacefully and respectfully.
"While we recognize that this is an excellent real life lesson about the First Amendment, we also know that such an assembly can put students and other citizens at risk," the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District superintendent wrote.
The controversial Westboro group is scheduled to picket at the high school 7 a.m. Monday, according to its website.
The site says it wants to tell students "the Gospel truth," that "every adult in their lives has taught them that they can disobey God... that it is OK to be gay." Westboro says it opposes "the homosexual lifestyle of soul-damning, nation-destroying filth."
Lyon said the district finds "hateful speech directed at any students or other community members to be offensive and potentially dangerous."
Westboro regularly plans protests, but often fails to show up. When the demonstrations are held, they typically draw counter-protests.
The superintendent said the district is working with the high school and Santa Monica Police to patrol the neighborhood and campus gates to keep students safe. "Security will be tight that morning, but we do not expect any problems," she wrote in the letter.
The school's Gay-Straight Alliance says it's planning a "peaceful" and "positive" fundraiser with music and "pride" that morning but won't respond to Westboro. "We are here for US, not them," its student leadership wrote on the club's Facebook page.
The district's Board of Education was scheduled to review Lyon's letter at its meeting Thursday night.