On Friday, April 17, schools across the country observed the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN) Day of Silence.
According to the event’s official web site at dayofsilence.org, “The Day of Silence is a student-led national event that brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools. Students from middle school to college take a vow of silence in an effort to encourage schools and classmates to address the problem of anti-LGBT behavior by illustrating the silencing effect of bullying and harassment on LGBT students and those perceived to be LGBT.”
McGuffey High School, a rural school with an enrollment of slightly less than 800 students, elected to observe GLSEN’s Day of Silence on Wednesday, April 15.
On Thursday, April 16, photographic evidence surfaced on social media sites including Facebook and Instagram that a number of male students had gone to school wearing flannel shirts in support of a so-called “Anti-Gay Day.”
According to a public post on Facebook by a McGuffey student, “today, the boys at McGuffey high school thought it would be a good idea to wear flannel to show ‘Anti-Gay’ Support, in a bashful way. People wrote ‘Anti-Gay’ on their bodies, and also pushed, shoved, and verbally attacked fellow students who participated in ‘Day Of Silence’, and hung ‘Anti-Gay’ posters all around the school.”
This post was accompanied by numerous photos of male students wearing flannel shirts, with at least one photo of a student whose face was obscured but had “Anti-Gay” written and underlined on his hand, with a heavy dark cross underneath the hateful slogan.
A school board meeting was held on Thursday evening during which three student members of McGuffey High School’s Gay Straight Alliance Club brought the matter to the board’s attention and spoke out against the day’s events.
Kathy Cameron, chair of the board of directors of the Washington County Gay Straight Alliance in Washington County, Pennsylvania, was present at the meeting. According to Cameron, she and other members of the Washington County GSA had been attending school board meetings since January of this year in hopes of promoting a more tolerant climate in the district.
“Day of Silence is a passive day, not rebellious,” said Cameron, meant to bring attention to bullying and harassment of LGBT students. However, the response to McGuffey High School’s April 15 observance of Day of Silence was “not quiet, not passive, abusive, disrespectful and possibly physical,” she added.
Cameron had high praise for the students who spoke at the board meeting. “They spoke very maturely, intelligently, and were respectful of others. The young people rocked it,” she said.
Cameron was quick to point out the school board’s response to the students was “compassionate” and she felt they “understood the gravity of the situation.”
Board members were “receptive and reactive,” she said, and encouraged one student who indicated they had been a victim of bullying to report the matter to the school police.
At the time of this writing, none of the students involved were available for comment. Names and photos have been withheld or obscured to protect the privacy of minors.
Facts and statistics regarding enrollment and other demographics for McGuffey High School are available at schools.publicschoolsreport.com/Pennsylvania/Claysville/McguffeyHs.html.