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Nation's educators to honor Tony Stewart

| June 21, 2010 9:00 PM

The National Education Association, the nation's largest organization of educators, will honor Coeur d'Alene human rights activist Tony Stewart.

Stewart will receive the H. Councill Trenholm Memorial Award on July 2 in New Orleans at NEA's annual Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner.

"Tony Stewart became a leading voice against Aryan Nations and played a central role in establishing human rights as a community value to fight the group's presence and activities," said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. "He is a shining example of how passion and commitment to human rights can transform a community."

When white supremacists calling themselves the Aryan Nations moved into Kootenai County to set up a compound, Stewart, a political science professor at North Idaho College, refused to remain silent. He helped organize the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations to counter the propaganda and activities of the hate group.

Stewart led a decade-long fight against the Aryan Nations. He enlisted support not only from his neighbors and colleagues but also from national organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, which in 2000 brought legal action against the Aryan Nations. Stewart served as jury consultant in the case, which resulted in a $6.3 million verdict against the white supremacist group.

Stewart produced a 90-minute documentary entitled Stand Up To Hate Groups by Saying Yes to Human Rights: The First Ten Years of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relation as an aid to other organizations facing similar social justice issues.

Although Stewart has retired from North Idaho College, he continues to co-chair School District 271's Fifth Grade Human Rights Week, along with Pamela Pratt, director of elementary education.

"In more than 35 years of working with educators, I have never met a man more passionate and committed to human rights," Pratt said of her colleague.

The NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards program honors individuals and organizations that promote peace and advance social and economic justice. The H. Councill Trenholm award is given to an individual whose activities make a significant impact on education as a profession and promoting understanding among racial and ethnic groups.

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