You’d think quiet in school would be a good thing

Would someone please explain to me what’s wrong with a silent protest?

In Clear Creek, staff members have been fielding calls and e-mails from parents concerned about students taking a silent vow in support of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth at some schools Friday. And this week, Alton Frailey, superintendent of Katy’s school district, let all teachers know that — though no one asked his district to participate in the silent protest — if someone did, “my answer is no.”

His districtwide e-mail on the subject, which confused and offended some teachers, came in response to form letters from parents complaining about Day of Silence, a national, and usually non-disruptive, silent student protest meant to draw attention to bullying based on sexual orientation.

“The degree of exposure and political posturing currently being generated is bringing more attention to this particular subject than is necessary,” Frailey wrote Monday in an e-mail that also instructed teachers not to make exceptions for students taking vows of silence.

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network has registered five participating schools in Katy, at least two in the Clear Creek school district and more than 20 in the Houston area. The organization estimates that more than 6,000 schools and several hundred thousand kids will keep silent Friday.

Usually these students try not to speak the entire day, although some break their vow if required to participate in class. Many also distribute pamphlets or wear T-shirts, letting peers and teachers know why they’re keeping mum. This year, students are protesting in the name of Lawrence King, a California eighth-grader who in February was shot and killed by another student, allegedly because he was gay.

The event began in 1996, but only started getting negative attention recently. In 2005, the conservative legal group the Alliance Defense Fund staged a counterprotest, called Day of Truth, which supports the “free speech rights of Christian students to present an opposing viewpoint to those organizations that promote homosexual behavior in the schools,” according to the group’s Web site. Then this year, the American Family Association sent an alert encouraging parents to keep kids home Friday if other students at their schools are participating in the Day of Silence.

“There are a lot of misinformation campaigns originating with groups who recognize that the Day of Silence is a very powerful positive thing,” said Daryl Presgraves, a GLSEN spokesman.

The AFA did not return a call seeking comment, but one form letter from its Web site notes “by allowing students to remain silent, administrations fail to protect the classroom from intrusive, political exploitation.”

Not that the AFA would know anything about intrusive political exploitation. This sounds to me like about as non-intrusive a protest as you could ask for. Short of sending kids home for wearing the T-shirt, which strikes me as being way more disruptive than the protest itself, what would they have the administration do? Punish someone for not talking during the lunch period? That would be pretty ridiculous.

I think this sums it up well:

“I was greatly offended,” said a gay teacher with the district, who asked not to be identified because he feared backlash. “What is the worst that can happen? Good Lord, how much instruction could you get done if kids were silent for a day?”

Yeah, you’d think that would be encouraged. We sure do live in strange times, don’t we?

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2 Responses to You’d think quiet in school would be a good thing

  1. John says:

    But if you teach the kids that beating up gay people is bad, think of what will happen!

  2. Will B. says:

    As long as the kids aren’t refusing to participate in class if required or asked to do so, I just can’t see a problem here.

    The t-shirts are another matter, schools do have quite a bit of latitude with regard to dress as long as it is uniformly (no pun intended) administered.

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