Protest planned to counter Day of Silence at Mount Si High School
Mount Si High School leaders were hoping the national Day of Silence on Friday in support of gay and lesbian students would pass quietly...
Seattle Times Eastside bureau
Mount Si High School leaders were hoping the national Day of Silence on Friday in support of gay and lesbian students would pass quietly under the radar.
That's not going to happen.
A prominent anti-gay-rights activist last week called for 1,000 "prayer warriors" to protest in front of the school Friday morning.
A coalition of groups that support gay students quickly announced a counterprotest at another location in Snoqualmie, where Mount Si High is located, to support students participating in the event.
A local church took out a full-page ad in Wednesday's Snoqualmie Valley Record in support of the school's Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), which is sponsoring the Day of Silence. The ad was meant to counter one by the Rev. Ken Hutcherson, pastor of Antioch Bible Church in Redmond, inviting residents to join his protest and declaring: "It's time for moral people to be unashamed and take a stand."
Snoqualmie's police force has asked neighboring jurisdictions to have officers standing by, although Hutcherson has vowed that his protest will be peaceful.
The National Day of Silence has been held at high schools and colleges around the country for the past 13 years, according to its sponsor, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, a national group with an office in Seattle. About 230 participated at Mount Si last year, a day that sponsors said occurred largely without incident.
Making it personal
Junior Leigh Macaulay, a GSA board member, said the Day of Silence is needed at Mount Si because it's still "risky" for students to be openly gay, lesbian or transgender.
"It's no big deal over at Issaquah," she said. "The publicity has made us the battleground."
The controversy at Mount Si began with the school's invitation to Hutcherson to speak at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day assembly. The pastor had agreed to talk only about his experiences as a black man growing up in Alabama and about King's legacy. Hutcherson's daughter, a student at the school, helped plan the assembly.
But Hutcherson's prominence as an activist against gay rights led one teacher to boo his appearance and another to ask if it wasn't hypocritical for him to support civil rights for African Americans but not for gays and lesbians.
Mount Si principal Randy Taylor said Hutcherson's planned protest is continuation of that controversy.
"It's personal," Taylor said. "We embarrassed him at the Martin Luther King assembly. It's payback."
Hutcherson countered, "Of course it's personal. They embarrassed me and they embarrassed my daughter."
Hutcherson said minority students aren't treated with the same respect and sensitivity that is being shown gay students.
"There are so many issues at that school, and homosexuals get a whole day?" he asked.
The Snoqualmie Valley School District has been trying to contain the controversy by requiring all students who participate Friday to attend a training session that outlines administrators' expectations for student safety and a calm educational environment.
About 150 students had completed the session through Wednesday and the GSA expected more to participate today.
In the first two years Mount Si held the event, Day of Silence participants have been shoved into lockers and called anti-gay names, said GSA member Caitlin Donnelly. She said that with the required training this year, students will be held accountable for their actions.
If supporters are hassled, "we plan to respond with dignity and maturity."
But she also said they would document incidents and report them to administrators.
Other students are concerned that not much learning will occur Friday.
David Shaw, a member of the Student Conservative Club at the school, said one of his teachers didn't talk during last year's Day of Silence.
"We don't want them taking time from our education," Shaw said.
Shaw's parents are members of the Coalition to Defend Education, a group that sprung up in the wake of the King assembly and called on the GSA to voluntarily cancel the Day of Silence.
Todd Shaw, a member of Hutcherson's church, said he'll be at the protest Friday with a sign that reads "Education Not Indoctrination."
GSA adviser Kit McCormick said members will observe the day regardless of the protest going on outside.
"It's enough of a tragedy that there are 1,000 grown-ups protesting kids who are asking for acceptance. We don't need to say a thing."
Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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