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Setting the Record Straight

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Two weeks ago, Hayao Shishino took possession of something he had been wanting for 47 years--his 1942 high-school diploma.

Mr. Shishino was one of 15 Japanese-Americans who, though they had completed their high-school coursework, had been denied diplomas because they had been confined to internment camps during World War II.

Paul Webb, the principal of Los Angeles High School at the time, had taken it upon himself to withhold the diplomas of Japanese-American students despite a school-board directive instructing all district principals to confer the degrees.

Last January, Mr. Shishino wrote a letter to Warren Furutani, a member of the Los Angeles School Board, in which he related the injustice of being denied a diploma.

Mr. Furutani understood--his own mother-in-law was among the classmates who had been refused a diploma. He responded to Mr. Shishino's letter by setting in motion plans for a ceremony during which the 15 students who had been eligible to graduate would be awarded their 1942 diplomas.

Twelve of the 14 students still living, including Mr. Shishino, donned caps and gowns on Oct. 28 to receive their diplomas at the ceremony, said Mr. Furutani, and one diploma was conferred posthumously.

Some of the students had gone on to earn high-school diplomas by other means, and others had received 1967 diplomas from Los Angeles High. Nevertheless, these students wanted diplomas dated 1942.

"The ceremony sends a message," Mr. Furutani said last week, "that we are setting the record straight.''--jw

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