More students than usual absent on Day of Silence
April 22, 2009
By Laura Geggel
Nearly one-fourth of Mount Si’s student population was absent from school on the Day of Silence April 17, but there were no protests on the edge of the school’s property like there were in 2008.
Snoqualmie Valley resident the Rev. Ken Hutcherson, who led the 100-person protest last year, explained why he chose to encourage absenteeism this year, in lieu of holding a protest.
“We want it to be about the kids,” Hutcherson said. “Last year, they made it about me standing outside. We don’t want them to use it as part of the argument this year.”
While nearly one-fourth of the students did miss school, there were fewer absence’s than last year. Of the 1,399 student population, 23 percent of students were absent, missing three or more periods. On a normal school day, about 9 percent of students are absent. In 2008, about 34 percent of the 1,410 student body missed a full day of school.
“It’s good to see there was less student absenteeism than the previous year,” Mount Si Principal Randy Taylor said, adding that no athletic teams had to cancel games due to attendance issues.
Taylor reported he was aware of two incidents that happened during school hours on April 17. In the first incident, Taylor spoke to two students who were wearing T-shirts with profane language.
“We gave the kids the option of either taking it off or going home for the day,” Taylor said. “They elected to go home.”
The second incident was reported after school, in which one student said something inappropriate to a student participating in the Day of Silence. Taylor said the incident would be documented in the student’s record.
“We’re real pleased it was an uneventful day,” Taylor said. “The GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) was able to hold their activity, and at the same time, instruction carried on as normal.”
About 100 Mount Si students participated 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 teacher calls on them in class.
“I thought it went really well,” GSA officer and senior Leigh Macaulay said. “Obviously, it was calmer than last year.”
Still, this year’s Day of Silence did not happen without controversy. Some Mount Si students asked the GSA to incorporate the Day of Silence into the Day of Respect, but the GSA declined.
In the week leading up to the Day of Silence, a group of parents and community members, including Hutcherson’s wife Pat, distributed flyers just outside school property asking that students be absent on the Day of Silence.
In an interview with the SnoValley Star, Hutcherson referenced an online SnoValley Star survey, in which the multiple-choice answer, “(The Day of Silence) should be done away with,” received 90 percent of 534 votes.
“These are the same people that vote on bonds,” Hutcherson said.
Hutcherson called the Day of Silence “a disruption” and said it divided students at Mount Si, where his son is a freshman. The day should be held before or after school or incorporated into the Day of Respect, he said.
“My kid was called a son of a bigot yesterday,” Hutcherson said. “Don’t tell me there’s not pressure.
Phillip Garding, president of the Coalition to Defend Education, said his children stayed home on the Day of Silence in 2008 and 2009. Last year, Garding said he heard many teachers did not teach regular lessons because of the high absentee rate.
“It is a disruption to the school day and last year many teachers, from what my children heard, kind of gave up and showed movies.”
Mount Si senior Zach Whetsel did not attend school on the Day of Silence.
“We’ve been trying to work things out for the last three years,” Whetsel said. “It’s something that hasn’t got any better. We asked if the Day of Silence could be part of the Day of Respect and they didn’t want to do it. I just feel that both sides aren’t being listened to.”
One group said it received all sorts of feedback concerning the Day of Silence. At the April 16 meeting, the Snoqualmie Valley School Board acknowledged the hundreds of comments they had read or heard from community members. School board President Marci Busby said the Day of Silence activities were not in violation of board policy 3220, “which describes a student’s right to expression as long as the expression does not substantially disrupt the operation of the school.”
Education was paramount and Busby said students should attend class.
“While we respect the opinions of individual parents and students, it is our hope that all students will choose to attend school tomorrow,” Busby said.
Reach reporter Laura Geggel at 392-6434 .221 or email@example.com.