Opponents to Day of Silence still unhappy
March 19, 2009
By Laura Geggel
Roughly a month before the 2009 Day of Silence, Snoqualmie Valley residents Pam and the Rev. Ken Hutcherson are asking whether or not Mount Si High School will again allow the day-long event.
Mount Si’s answer? Yes.
At a March 12 Snoqualmie Valley School Board meeting, the Hutchersons and another parent asked about the validity of holding the Day of Silence during school hours.
“We never said we did not want the Day of Silence. Never.” Ken Hutcherson said. “We said you can make it before school or after school, because the school day should be for learning.”
Mount Si Assistant Principal and Activities Director Beth Castle and two students from the Gay Straight Alliance explained the decision. Castle said the GSA had recently invited her, Principal Randy Taylor and Assistant Principal Cindy Wilson to one of their meetings previewing the April 17 Day of Silence.
“The day at school at Mount Si last year was what we thought was very successful,” Castle said. “I know that you’ve probably been aware that there was a high absentee rate. We talked about that and hope that is not the case (this year).”
Castle said other circumstances, such as the outside protests, could have contributed to the high absenteeism.
The Mount Si GSA began participating in the Day of Silence, an event started in 1996 at the University of Virginia that has spread across the nation. Students participating choose to remain silent to promote tolerance and draw attention to harassment gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people face.
So as not to disrupt the education process, students participating in the Day of Silence are required to talk if a teachers calls on them in class.
Last year, about 200 students participated, but more were absent. About 9 percent of students miss school on any given day, which equals the percentage of students who missed school on the 2007 Day of Silence. On the 2008 Day of Silence — when Hutcherson held a protest — about 34 percent of the 1,410 student body missed a full day of school.
Castle said she hoped the absentee rate would not be as drastic this year.
“(The GSA) mentioned their foremost goal that day is not to cause a disruption in the educational environment of the classroom, but to simply bring awareness of bullying and harassment,” Castle said.
School board director Rudy Edwards asked if the Day of Silence could be combined with Mount Si’s Day of Respect. Castle said that while both days promote tolerance, different groups organize them.
“The Day of Silence, again, is a student-club activity,” Castle said. “It is not school-sponsored.”
“The community is not getting that,” Edwards said.
“I think the club is hoping the community will understand and get that,” Castle said. “They have the right to do that activity on that day.”
School board director Craig Husa clarified the students’ rights to free speech during school hours.
“Everyone has different opinions and very strongly held beliefs on many sides of many different conflicts,” Husa said. “To keep that right of free speech which is here and keep it from disrupting the learning process is a challenge for the school district. All we can do it try to preserve the right of free speech and try to maintain the learning process.”
Hutcherson reiterated that, free speech or not, he did not want the Day of Silence to be held during school hours.
“When we work together parents, we get the bond passed,” Ken Hutcherson said. “But if you bring the Day of Silence in here…you may never get another bond passed because this is so disruptive in this community.”
Reach reporter Laura Geggel at 392-6434 .221 or firstname.lastname@example.org.