The Day of Silence in Massachusetts -
April 26, 2006
OPEN LETTER TO LEXINGTON, MA, SUPERINTENDENT FROM PARENTS
[This letter was signed by 60 Lexington residents, delivered to the school administration, and published in the Lexington Minuteman newspaper]
An Open Letter to Dr. Paul Ash and the Lexington School Committee
We the undersigned members of the Lexington Community call upon Superintendent Paul Ash and the Lexington School Committee to disassociate the schools from the annual Day of Silence scheduled for this month. By endorsing this event, the school administration is needlessly dividing the community and putting the town at the risk of eventual litigation over constitutional violations.
Whatever positive results were supposed to come from this staged event, they have not materialized. To the contrary, the Day of Silence has resulted in a more divided community, with students demonstrating less tolerance, and more stress and name-calling on both sides. Last year this intolerance culminated in a physical assault on a student who peacefully dissented from this activity. Programs that purport to teach respect and tolerance should not result in physical assaults on peaceful students simply because they hold to a different set of values from those being promoted by the schools.
Moreover, it is not the business of the public schools to challenge students’ core beliefs and values by applying pressure, subtle or otherwise, to get them to conform their thinking to a particular political or cultural viewpoint. The considerable persuasive power of teachers as role models should be used to encourage those values the entire community can unite in embracing, not to choose sides in contentious cultural issues.
For students, there is no reasonable way to opt-out of the Day of Silence. It is a school wide, day long event. By endorsing this event, the school leadership is sending a strong message to all those who do not share the views of the event’s organizers that they are unwelcome in the schools when the Day of Silence and related programs are taking place.
Welcoming children and adults from a variety of backgrounds is a worthy goal we can support as a community. But we cannot all support the Day of Silence, or the views and actions of its organizers. Practicing toleration and respect does not mean we must endorse others’ lifestyle choices any more than it means we must endorse others’ religious choices. It does not mean that the gay community must be upheld year after year as history’s most prominent victims. Respect does not come through coercion, whether subtle or blunt.
The public schools belong to all the citizens of Lexington, not just those who subscribe to one favored point of view. The school administration has already demonstrated that it is incapable of guaranteeing the physical safety of students who do not wish to participate in this divisive annual ritual. This year, we urge you to take the first step in returning the public schools to the practice of political neutrality, where students, parents and teachers from a variety of backgrounds and beliefs can feel equally safe, welcomed and at home. Cancel the Day of Silence.
[Signed by 60 Lexington residents]
SCHOOL NEWSPAPER ARTICLE PREVIEWING "DAY OF SILENCE"
[This was published in the Newton North High school school newspaper, a few weeks before the Day of Silence. Notice the fact that adults are running this almost completely.]
Day of Silence to begin series of programs
The Newtonite, Newton North High School
Thursday April 13, 2006
To call attention to the need for safety and respect, three groups will sponsor a three-day program after vacation, said counselor Darby Verre, a Gay/Straight Alliance co-adviser with English teacher Robb Fessler.
Wednesday, April 26, will be a Day of Silence, the first in the series that the GSA will sponsor with the Human Rights Board and the Leadership class.
The day "before, participants will present packets to their teachers explaining why they will be silent, and on the day, they will wear stickers saying "silent" in big black letters, Verre said.
"Students, faculty and anybody who wants to support the cause can choose to be silent" said junior Chen Chen, the GSA president.
"It is a reminder that this is a safe school and a safe place. Part of the reason why we are doing it is to welcome in the new principal," he said referring to Jennifer Price.
"We want to show her that our school is being proactive."
Thursday, April 27 will be a Day of Speaking, which will be "like a smaller scale ToBGLA-Day," Chen said. "We've added the Day of Speaking as a means to discuss and reflect the experiences of the Day of Silence and GBLTQ issues in general."
During X-block there will be a Speakout that is open to everybody, he said.
Friday, April 28, will be a Day of Action. That day, forms will be available to anyone who wants to donate to the cause, Verre said. Donations will go towards 500 T-shirts the GSA is aiming to buy, which will say "Gay? Fine by me."
Before school and during lunch, T-shirts will be available for students who explicitly request them, Verre said.
The GSA meets Monday X-blocks in 344 and Thursday lunches in Verre's room, 366.
"There are still people in school who are downright hateful, and that's why we are doing all of this," Verre said. "It is to show that the majority of the school is supportive."
Junior Rebecca Wright, a GSA member, said that unlike two years ago, more straight people than gay people belong to the organization, which is a good sign.
"It shows how open of a community Newton is to have that many straight people accepting of gays and comfortable around them.
"Most people stay with the club throughout their high school years, but many people join as upperclassmen," Wright said.
"People who may not have been open or comfortable with their sexuality or sexuality in general as freshmen but have grown to be comfortable discussing it as upperclassmen often join i the club later on."
NEWSPAPER ARTICLE DAY BEFORE "DAY OF SILENCE"
[This appeared in the Boston Herald and also the Metrowest Daily News the day before the Day of Silence.]
Students taking vow of silence in honor of gay rights
by John Hillard
Metrowest Daily News
April 25, 2005
Some students are being given a one-day pass on class participation tomorrow as they take part n a silent protest against anti-gay violence.
And educators say they'll honor the one-day vow.
"They have realized that harassment and name-calling are not acceptable," said Sean Haley of the national Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network.
GLSEN will spearhead its 10th annual Day of Silence tomorrow at 4,000 schools across the country. Participating high school and college students pledge not to speak in protest of anti-gay harassment.
Haley, GLSEN's executive director in Boston, said about 150 Bay State Schools will participate.
Protesters are expected at Lexington High.
Some opponents say the students' silence is meant to shove a homosexual agenda into local schools.
"It's a complete lie," said Brian Camenker, president of the parents Rights Coalition-Mass Resistance of Waltham. "The purpose is to push homosexuality on kids."
Two elementary school parents spoke out last week against the reading of a gay-themed fairy tale titled "King & King" to second graders.
Holliston High Principal Mary Canty said teachers have been asked to respect students who opt to remain mum.
"I think it's important for schools to respect both sides of the issue," she said.
BOSTON HERALD COLUMN ON "DAY OF SILENCE"
[Joe Fitzgerald is one of the few newspaper columnists left in Boston who aren't afraid to tell the truth. This was published in the Boston Herald the morning of the Day of Silence.]
Gag rule on truth taints student silence
By Joe Fitzgerald
Boston Herald Columnist
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Those Lexington High students who’ll opt to button their lips today, ostensibly conveying support of gays and lesbians by remaining mum in all their classes, may imagine themselves to be profiles in courage, but, truth be told, they’re just pawns poorly served by an administration too terrified to educate them honestly.
When you have a superintendent who cowers behind a smoke screen fashioned by political correctness, is it any surprise to find a second-grade teacher imposing homosexual themes on captive young listeners, regaling them with a story about a prince who married a prince?
“Lexington is committed to teaching children about the world they live in,” Paul Ash, the superintendent, explained, adding, “in Massachusetts, same-sex marriage is legal.”
In other words, he might protect second-graders from such brazen proselytizing if he were a superintendent in any of the other 49 states?
But let’s stick to this state, the one in which he and we are stuck with one another.
What wonderful teaching moments could have been extracted from this so-called “Day of Silence,” lessons learned from life in Massachusetts.
It’s ironic, for instance, that the crowd which once pleaded for tolerance has now become the most intolerant crowd of all, even inventing a word to revile anyone resisting its agenda.
Homophobia? Please. There is nothing hateful about having an opposing point of view, especially if it’s a belief that’s anchored to faith or values. What is hateful is to stifle that opposition through character assassination.
That’s a salient point Ashe would do well to make.
He could also extract a civics lesson, reminding kids that the essence of this freedom we treasure as Americans, rooted in the nearby Lexington Green, is captured in this magnificent declaration: “Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . .”
Do they still teach that in Lexington?
If they do, how do they explain the sanctioning of same-sex marriage by four judges, not one of whom had the consent of the governed? Do they tell kids this is not the way it’s supposed to work?
Do they tell them how the crowd with whom they’ll sympathize today is doing everything in its power to disenfranchise the governed, fearful its consent would not be granted? Do they tell them how same-sex marriage has been vetoed by voters in every state where it’s appeared on a ballot?
Do they tell that to the kids of Lexington?
In citing the “legality” of same-sex marriage as a license for today’s demonstration, Ashe is being more than disingenuous; indeed, he’s being intellectually dishonest.
Surely he could extract a history lesson here, too, reminding those kids that, even though we’re a nation of laws, the law isn’t always right. It once said women couldn’t vote. Remember? It once said blacks couldn’t eat at public lunch counters. Remember?
Would Ashe have been obsequious to those laws, too, if he had been a superintendent then?
“Never forget,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. often noted in resisting the laws of Jim Crow, “that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal. It was illegal to aid and comfort a Jew in the day of Hitler’s Germany. And I believe if I had lived there I would have disobeyed that law.”
Many of those kids who’ll remain silent today will be led and informed by their hearts, which is a wonderful reason to join in any demonstration.
But the silence of their leaders is unconscionable. Shame on them.
LIST OF PARTICIPATING HIGH SCHOOLS IN MASSACHUSETTS
From GLSEN / Day of Silence website: (And we know this isn't complete; for example, Newton North High School isn't on this list, and they've been doing the Day of Silence for several years.)
ACTON-BOXBOROUGH REGIONAL H.S.
AGAWAM HIGH SCHOOL
AMESBURY HIGH SCHOOL
AMHERST REGIONAL HIGH SCHOOL
ANOTHER COURSE TO COLLEGE
APPONEQUET REG. HIGH SCHOOL
ARLINGTON HIGH SCHOOL
ATTLEBORO HIGH SCHOOL
B.M.C DURFEE HIGH
BARNSTABLE HIGH SCHOOL
BAY PATH REG. VOC. HIGH SCHOOL
BELCHERTOWN HIGH SCHOOL
BELMONT HIGH SCHOOL
BELMONT HILL SCHOOL
BILLERICA MEMORIAL HIGH SCHOOL
BLACKSTONE VALLEY REG. VOKE.
BOSTON LATIN SCHOOL
BROCKTON HIGH SCHOOL
BURNCOAT SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL
CAMBRDIGE RINDGE AND LATIN
CAMBRIDGE SCHOOL AT WESTON
CAPE CODE TECH
CENTRAL CATHOLIC HIGH SCHOOL
CHATHAM HIGH SCHOOL
CHICOPEE COMP HIGH SCHOOL
DANA HALL SCHOOL
DANVERS HIGH SCHOOL
DENNIS-YARMOUTH REGIONAL HIGH
DOHERTY MEMORIAL HIGH
DUXBURY HIGH SCHOOL
EVERETT HIGH SCHOOL
FALMOUTH HIGH SCHOOL
FENWAY HIGH SCHOOL
FIRST PARISH CHURCH STOW-AC
FOREST GROVE MIDDLE SCHOOL
FOXBORO HIGH SCHOOL
FRAMINGHAM HIGH SCHOOL
FRANKLIN COUNTY TECHNICAL SCHO
FRANKLIN HIGH SCHOOL
FWH MIDDLE SCHOOL
GARDNER HIGH SCHOOL
GARDNER PUBLIC SCHOOLS
GEORGETOWN HIGH SCHOOL
GRAFTON MEMORIAL HICH SCHOOL
GRAHAM AND PARKS
HALE MIDDLE SCHOOL
HAMILTON-WENHAM REGIONAL HIGH
HAMPSHIRE REGIONAL HIGH SCHOOL
HAVERHILL HIGH SCHOOL
HIBBARD ALTERNATIVE SCHOOL
HIGH SCHOOL OF COMMCERCE
HOPEDALE JR. SR. HIGH SCHOOL
HOPKINTOM MIDDLE SCHOOL
HULL HIGH SCHOOL
LEE MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL
LEICESTER HIGH SCHOOL
LEXINGTON HIGH SCHOOL
LINCOLN-SUDBURY REGIONAL HIGH
LONGMEADOW HIGH SCHOOL
LOWELL CATHOLIC HIGHSCHOOL
MA ACADEMY OF MATH AND SCIENCE
MANSFIELD HIGH SCHOOL
MEDFIELD HIGH SCHOOL
MEDWAY HIGH SCHOOL
MELROSE HIGH SCHOOL
METHUEN HIGH SCHOOL
MILLIS HIGH SCHOOL
MISSS HALLS SCHOOL
MONSIGNOR HADDAD MIDDLE SCHOOL
MT. GREYLOCK MIDDLE/HIGH SCHOO
NASHOBA BROOKS SCHOOL
NASHOBA REGIONAL HIGH SCHOOL
NATICK HIGH SCHOOL
NEWTON SOUTH HIGH SCHOOL
NIPMUC REGIONAL HIGH SCHOOL
NORTH ANDOVER HIGH SCHOOL
NORTH CENTRAL CHARTER ESSENTIA
NORTH QUINCY HIGH SCHOOL
NORTHBRIDGE HIGH SCHOLL
NORTHFIELD MOUNT HERMON SCHOOL
NORWELL HIGH SCHOOL
NOTRE DAME ACADEMY
PARKER CHARTER SCHOOL
PIONEER VALLEY REGIONAL SCHOOL
PITTSFIELD HIGH SCHOOL
QUABBIN REGIONAL HIGH SCHOOL
RALPH C MAHAR REGIONAL HS
ROCKPORT HIGH SCHOOL
SALEM HIGH SCHOOL
SCITUATE HIGH SCHOOL
SEEKONK HIGH SCHOOL
SHARON HIGH SCHOOL
SHORE COUNTRY DAY SCHOOL
SHREWSBURY HIGH SCHOOL
SOMERSET HIGH SCHOOL
SOMERVILLE HIGH SCHOOL
SOUTH HADLEY HIGH SCHOOL
SOUTH SHORE CHARTER SCHOOL
STONEHAM HIGH SCHOOL
STOUGHTON HIGH SCHOOL
SWAMPSCOTT HIGH SCHOOL
TACONIC HIGH SCHOOL
TAHANTO REGIONAL MIDDLE HIGH
TANTASQUA REGIONAL HIGH
TAUNTON HIGH SCHOOL
THE WALDORF HIGH SCHOOL
TRITON REGIONAL SCHOOL DISTRIC
WACHUSETT REGIONAL HIGH SCHOOL
WAREHAM HIGH SCHOOL
WAYLAND HIGH SCHOOL
WELLESLEY HIGH SCHOOL
WEST BOYLSTON MIDDLE SCHOOL
WESTBOROUGH HIGH SCHOOL
WESTON HIGH SCHOOL
WESTPORT HIGH SCHOOL
WESTWOOD HIGH SCHOOL
WOBURN HIGH SCHOOL