Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Mount Si High School leaders were hoping the national Day of Silence last Friday in support of gay and lesbian students would be a low key, calm affair.

It wasn't.

Instead, the high school located in Snoqualmie, WA was the scene of protests and counter protests. There were about 250 people confronting each other Friday about the Day of Silence inside in support of gay students.

Police kept the peace. There were no arrests. But, the disruptions caused about 500 students, about a third of the school, to stay home.

Inside the school, students wore t-shirts and arm bands expressing their views about the National Day of Silence in support of gay and lesbian students

The school principal estimated roughly 10 percent of the student population may be gay. He reports no serious harassment issues in the last several months and calls the demonstration a form of expression which does not violate school policy against protests.

Enter Rev. Ken Hutcherson, pastor of Antioch Bible Church in Redmond, who invited anti-gay residents of the area to join his protest. The Reverend said, "It's time for moral people to be unashamed and take a stand."

The Seattle Times reported the controversy at Mount Si began with the school's invitation to Hutcherson to speak at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day assembly. The pastor had agreed to talk only about his experiences as a black man growing up in Alabama and about King's legacy. Hutcherson's daughter, a student at the school, helped plan the assembly.

But Hutcherson's prominence as an activist against gay rights led one teacher to boo his appearance and another to ask if it wasn't hypocritical for him to support civil rights for African Americans but not for gays and lesbians.

Nationwide some group called the Alliance Defense Fund called a "Day of Truth" yesterday in portest of Friday's Day of Silence.

It's the fourth year of the Day of Truth, which was established, the group says, to "counter the promotion of the homosexual agenda and express an opposing viewpoint from a Christian perspective."

Gay news group, described that events failure, "The so-called "Day of Truth" went by yesterday with less than a whimper." says:
"The Alliance Defense Fund has many connections with Christian ex-gay organizations that claim that LGBT persons can change to heterosexuality through prayer, intervention and psychological counselling."

The Alliance Defense Fund receives funding from Focus on the Family, a group that also funds Exodus Ministries. ADF also lists Exodus as an allied organization on their webpage."

Resources for the group’s ‘Day of Truth’ event were prepared by Exodus Ministries, which claims to be able to help LGBT persons become heterosexual, included in their 'Homosexuality FAQ Sheet.'"

At its own website the Alliance Defense Fund says it, "... is humbled to have dedicated women and men serving on the 'front lines' in this war, fighting for religious freedom, the sanctity of human life, and traditional family values."

I'm humbled to know that they are humbled in their homophobic agenda.

The following is from the SnoValley Star (Washington).

Protests hit Day of Silence

About 660 students were absent from class April 25 as protestors and counter-protestors gathered near the Mount Si High School tennis courts to support or contest the Day of Silence.

The Rev. Ken Hutcherson led a group of about 100 people from the Antioch Bible Church and other groups to protest the school’s third-annual Day of Silence, an event started in 1996 at the University of Virginia that has spread across the nation. Students participating, about 200 of them from Mount Si High School, remain mute to promote tolerance and draw attention to harassment gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people face.

Earlier in the day, a group of about 40 parents came to show their silent support. The majority of the protestors and about 30 counter-protestors arrived by 10 a.m., staying for an hour and waving signs with slogans like, “I believe in separation of church and hate,” and “Educate not indoctrinate.”

Both sides had messages for one another, but shouting took precedence over any sort of dialogue.

“It should not be going on while children are in school,” said Henrese Bruce of Everett.

“I don’t have a child in school here, but my pastor’s children go here and a lot of people at our church - their kids go here. Our teachers should not be teaching our children homosexuality.”

The total number of students absent reflects those who missed only one period. School policy, however, dictates absences for those students who miss four or more classes. Of those, there were 480 on Friday.

Jeffrey Lommel, who attended Mount Si High School for two years and now lives in Redmond, said that he found it hard to be a young gay man in the Valley.

“There is always a fear of people calling you names in the hallways. It was a scary time to be at Mount Si,” said Lommel. “Not only do the kids have to be afraid of each other, they have to be afraid of the parents as well.”

“There is nothing wrong with Ken Hutcherson because of his beliefs,” said Mount Si sophomore Max Rosentreter. “But he is out here putting other people down. I don’t see why they have to come over here and disrupt our school telling us that they don’t like gay people.”

Dave Caldeira, Youth Pastor at Calvary Chapel on the Eastside, graduated from Mount Si High School in 1994. He doesn’t support the Day of Silence being held during school hours, but he questioned the effectiveness of the protests.

“They’re passionate what they believe in and I’m passionate what I believe in, but we shouldn’t be spewing hatred,” Caldeira said.

Five Snoqualmie police officers kept protesters and counter-protestors out of the street but reported no incidents or arrests.

Across Washington state, 255 middle and high schools participated in the Day of Silence. Daryl Presgraves, media relations manager for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), said that out of 7,600 schools that participated nationwide, he only heard of a handful of protests.

The Snoqualmie Library held a panel following the protests hosted by GLSEN. About 20 people attended, listening and questioning parents, religious leaders and former students about issues faced by people with different sexualities and gender identities.

Despite all of the controversy, the high school maintained its closed campus and held classes as usual. Students participating in the Day of Silence wore tie-dyed bracelets. If a teacher called on them during class, they were required to speak.

“Our utmost priority is the safety of the students,” said Carolyn Malcolm, the school district’s public information officer. “We were very proud of the students inside the school. It was a quiet, productive day.”

On an average school day, about nine percent of the student body is absent, which is equal to the number of students absent last year during the Day of Silence. This year, 63 student athletes received waivers allowing them to attend after-school sports, despite missing school.

“It was unfortunate students choose not to come,” said Mount Si Junior Caitlin Donnelly, Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) student officer and student coordinator for the Day of Silence. She added that the “extra quiet classrooms made for a more productive day.”

While some students stayed home due to personal beliefs, Malcolm reported that some parents were uneasy with sending their children to school because of the protests.

“I know administrators plan to step back and look at the day and all factors that may have contributed to the absences,” Malcolm said.

The Coalition to Defend Education, a Valley group of 145 parents who do not support the Day of Silence, did not participate in the protest.

More attention has been paid to the Day of Silence this year after Hutcherson spoke at the high school’s Martin Luther King Day assembly and was booed by one teacher and questioned about gay rights by another.

Hutcherson began campaigning against the Day of Silence, but the school administrators maintained that the GSA had the right to sponsor the event under the Federal Equal Access Act and the First Ammendment.

“We simply ask, if you want the Day of Silence, make it before or after school like other clubs,” said Hutcherson. Although he targeted Mount Si High School, Hutcherson said he hoped to set an example for parents at other high schools who disagree with the Day of Silence.

Summer Nikolaisen, a senior at Mount Si High School, said she felt a little bit of pressure about whether she would attend school on Friday, but once she arrived, said it was a day like any other.

“It was just less people than normal, that’s all,” Nikolaisen said. “There were some protesters in the morning, but I didn’t really see them.”

Donnelly saw the protests as beyond the GSA’s control.

“None of those disruptions were caused by GSA,” Donnelly said. “Hopefully, in years to come, it will happen with less controversy and less opposition.”

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