Some parents disagree with Kenmore Junior High student-led National Day of Silence activity
By ANDY NYSTROM
Bothell Reporter Reporter
April 16, 2010 · Updated 3:23 PM
A student-led activity today at Kenmore Junior High had some parents shaking their heads and speaking out in disagreement. At least one parent said she was keeping her child home today when some local students were set to participate in the National Day of Silence to "silently protest the bullying and harassment suffered by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students," according to the message on the school's Web site.
"We feel this type of support for the Day of Silence allows the classroom to be disrupted and politicized at the expense and discomfort of those students who would otherwise oppose supporting gay and lesbian rights," wrote parent Lora Cook in an e-mail of disapproval she also sent yesterday to Northshore School District Superintendent Larry Francois, the school-district board of directors, Kenmore Junior High's principal and vice principal and one teacher who was allegedly supporting the activity.
"While we are aware that Kenmore Junior High is painting this as a non-bullying agenda, we feel the unstated goal is to teach our children to think of homosexual and cross-dressing people as an oppressed minority instead of a group of people seeking validation for their particular sort of sexual behavior. It is not necessary to promote homosexuality in order to oppose bullying. No one should be bullied!"
Cook added that she "doesn't feel that the administrative support of the Day of Silence, which not only includes students but also the silence of at least one teacher during classroom instructional time, is an appropriate action by a public school, which should be neutral in its political influences on our students."
This morning, Northshore School District Director of Communications Leanna Albrecht noted that the Day of Silence is a student-organized event and a small number of parents "do not agree with this student-led activity."
"We respect the rights of the parents, and also respect the rights of our students and this student activity," Albrecht said.
Added Francois via e-mail to the Reporter: "As a student-initiated activity intended to generate awareness and reduce violence, bullying or harassment of any of our students, this event works towards those efforts. Board policy allows students to initiate this action as long as they do not disrupt the learning environment. I trust our administration to work with our students to appropriately and respectfully represent their opinions."
The message on the school's Web site also noted that "students can participate by taking a personal vow of silence for the entire school day on Friday. Students who have chosen to participate are also asked to dress in black and wear a Day of Silence sticker."
After school let out for the day, Kenmore Junior High Principal Tim Gordon said that everything ran smoothly during the school's second consecutive Day of Silence, put on by the school's Gay Straight Alliance (GSA). He made walk-throughs to classrooms and noted that it was a typical day of teaching and learning without any disruptions.
Gordon said that he has received a few complaints each year from parents concerning the Day of Silence.
"It's a sensitive subject, and I understand their (the parents') concerns, I appreciate that," he said, noting that they also deeply discuss issues regarding race, cyber-bullying and more during the school year.
"It's not the same as the Civil Rights movement of the '60s, but it has the same sort of feel to it," he added about the students' right to hold and participate in the event. "We want to bring awareness to these various issues."
Albrecht noted that under the federal Equal Access Act, if a secondary school allows any non-curricular clubs, it must afford the same opportunities and rights within the school to meet, use the announcements, bulletin board, etc. to all non-curricular clubs. Material and substantial disruption of the learning environment becomes the standard for any limitation on student-generated speech and assembly. Northshore School District board policies that apply are: 3210 (Non-Discrimination), 3220 (Freedom of Expression) and 3223 (Freedom of Assembly).
The Day of Silence is organized by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and has been held each year in April since 1996.
For information, visit the Day of Silence Web site.Contact Bothell Reporter Reporter Andy Nystrom at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-425-483-3732 (ext 5050).