February 27, 2008
An open letter to the Gay/Straight Alliance at Mount Si High School:
The Coalition to Defend Education is a group of parents, students, and community members that are working to ensure that our schools are safe, that they provide an excellent education in academic subjects, and that the learning environment is free of bias.
We feel strongly that the Day of Silence works against the GSA’s goals of acceptance and inclusion. We appeal to you to not request the Day of Silence at MSHS. Please know that we are not trying to silence you or minimize your experiences. We just don’t believe that the Day of Silence helps your cause.
The basic problem is that the Day of Silence doesn’t have a positive message, only a message of protest. We expected the goal to be acceptance, but the stated purpose is “to bring attention to anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and discrimination in schools.” The Day is motivated by anger at unfair treatment. It excites strong emotions and heightens resentment for all students, with no positive resolution for those feelings. The end result is increased tension, and ultimately more persecution of gay students.
We know you are angry at real prejudice and mistreatment. We know it is emotionally satisfying to vent your anger. If your true goal, however, is understanding and acceptance for the long term, not just feeling better for a day, you should abandon the Day of Silence as it is currently planned. Gordon Hinckley wrote “A wise leader starves the problems and feeds the opportunities.” The Day of Silence is a clear case of feeding the problems. It focuses 100% on problems and 0% on opportunities. One thing that separates adults from children is the maturity to give up what feels good when it isn’t in your best interests, and the Day of Silence is not in your best interests.
Coalition members have had students at MSHS for many, many years. We have never seen tension as high as it is today. It is very clear that tension has steadily increased since the first Day of Silence two years ago. As it is based on anger, the Day of Silence fosters a culture of anger that highlights differences between students and sets friend against friend.
On the Day of Silence, each student must choose from three possible actions: 1) to join with you, wear an armband, and be silent; 2) to oppose you, not wear an armband and not be silent; or 3) to not participate at all, not wear an armband, and not be silent. Over 80% of students chose #3 last year. How do you (and your supporters) tell the difference between opponents and the vast majority of neutral students? You can’t, and you don’t. Every student is judged to be “pro-gay” or “anti-gay” in the angry climate of the Day. Neutral students tried staying home, only to be harassed as “anti-gay” the next day. Of course, emotions run hot when the theme of the day is anger. If you don’t believe this happens, consider this girl’s experience: She wanted to be neutral, but was severely criticized by her close friends (your supporters) for days after the Day of Silence because they saw her non-participation as “anti-gay.” Hers is not an isolated case; we know many other students with similar stories.
When persecuted, do you feel sympathetic to your tormentors? Are you surprised that students aren’t sympathetic to you when bullied on your day of protest? Many students are afraid to say anything against the Day (not against gays, but against the event) for fear of being branded homophobic or anti-gay. Neutral students can’t opt out, and they can’t say they don’t like it. Resentment builds and then spills out in ugly ways, such as the “Adam and Steve” skit and more private harassment of gay students.
Please note that we do not in any way defend or justify the abuse of gay students. This sort of anti-gay behavior is inexcusable. The administration must prevent it and to punish anyone who does it. Period.
We have heard GSA members will be trained to respect non-participants. This will have minor impact, at best. Acting kindly while protesting is difficult, and the GSA has no control over the scores of participants and the hundreds of neutral students who have been through two years of frustration. The Day of Silence is a high-tension event. Emotions will run high, and the problems experienced will occur again.
To understand what the Day of Silence is like for most students, imagine a day of protest for religious persecution. Students would have to choose whether to be “pro-religion” when they came through the school door and then wear a sign all day declaring their choice. Not wearing a sign or staying home would be considered “anti-religion” and hostile to people of faith. The “pro” and “anti” groups would call names, push each other in the hallways, and hold grudges. Other than the subject, the events, feelings, and results are not fundamentally different than the Day of Silence.
We believe that you want to be accepted, to be respected as individuals, and to have happy high school years. Anger will not help achieve any of your real goals. There are many ways that you can work for change without polarizing the students. Look for opportunities to build connections. Look for ways to reach out, not to vent. You can’t fight anger and prejudice by giving out anger and prejudice.
There is great danger these days in provoking tension and resentment. Sadly, we live in a world in which unstable people sometimes turn their frustration to extreme acts of violence. School shootings continue to be in the news. We hope and pray that Snoqualmie Valley will never see anything like that, but there has never been a greater need for calm, rational thought and for a united and respectful student body.
Please choose to not spread anger this year and do not request the Day of Silence during the school day.
Coalition to Defend Education
We strongly disagree with this request.
Indeed, I personally find it vile and repugnant!
What you suggest is that the LGBT community and their supporters remain silent. That is unacceptable. If there is a problem at Mt Si with bigotry and bias it should be addressed and NOT ignored.
What's next? Should we get rid of black history month to appease the racists?
We strongly encourage the GSA to go forward with the Day of Silence and hold the memory of Lawrence King close to your hearts on that day.
And I encourage the Coalition to Defend Education (CoDE) to seek a more appropriate name.
Perhaps... the Coalition Ranting Against Poofer's
"Please choose to not spread anger this year and do not request the Day of Silence during the school day."
HOW DARE YOU! YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED!
It is not the GSA that brings the anger, it is the angry minded who choose ambivalence over the pursuit of equality and justice.
Just how many Catholics are bullied on Ash Wednesday for sporting ashes on their forehead? Do the Atheists wear 'I Love Catholics ... Dead!' t-shirts?
Do we see skits openly denegrating christians for their belief in Genesis and creation? Are classes in biology, physics and astronomy not openly challenging the validity of Genesis with facts and reason?
There is a good reason religion is not allowed in school. If your anger is fueled by your religion, perhaps you should seek another, more peaceful one.