A day of silence meant to raise awareness of the bullying and harassment faced by gays and lesbians took a turn Friday at Brainerd High School when about a dozen other students staged their own protest against homosexuality by wearing mostly handmade anti-gay T-shirts.
BHS Principal Andrea Rusk said Friday that the Gay Straight Alliance, a non-school sponsored club that meets at the school, sponsored a Day of Silence event in which members did not speak during the school day. If people would ask why they weren't speaking, the students would hand them information about why they were being silent. It was not a school-sponsored event and about a dozen students participated. The same silent protest was conducted last year without any incidents, said Rusk. A story about the event was printed in the high school newspaper last week.
But on Friday, nearly a dozen teenage boys showed up at school wearing T-shirts with anti-gay slogans. Rusk said she learned about the T-shirts when a girl came in her office crying because she felt the shirts were hurtful. The teenage boys were called to the office, and most of them removed their shirts before making it to the office where administrators discussed with them the inappropriateness of their messages.
School administrators reserve the right to prohibit clothing that is deemed inappropriate or disruptive to the learning process. Rusk said the T-shirts would not have been allowed in school on any other day. Rusk said school administrators had already met with GSA club members and refused to allow them to wear shirts with slogans like "No tolerance for no tolerance" and they were told they could not wear tape on their mouths or paint their faces during school because it would be disruptive. They were allowed to wear T-shirts that read "A Day of Silence," said Rusk.
Rusk said no students were disciplined who were involved on either side of this situation. She said she wished the students protesting the day of silence would have come to school administrators beforehand with their concerns.
"Many of the boys that we talked with today did not even know what the day was for," said Rusk. "They felt it was promoting a sexual orientation, rather than raising awareness of bullying and harassment and safe schools. We told every student we respect your right to have your opinions and your own beliefs. We respect their right to have differing opinions but our job is to promote a safe school for all students."
Rusk said there were no altercations or words exchanged during the school day about the Day of Silence and no teachers reported any other incidents.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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