Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Anchorage School District To Allow Students To Observe Pro-Gay "Day Of Silence" On April 25th, 2008; Fairbanks' North Star District Will Follow Suit

The Anchorage School District will allow students who so desire to observe the annual pro-gay "Day of Silence" to be held on April 25th. Full story aired by KIMO Channel 13 Anchorage.

The annual "Day of Silence", pushed by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), is intended to create awareness of the abuse and harrassment of the gay, lesbian and transgender community, according to supportes. But detractors believe it's just another opportunity for the gay rights lobby to promote the homosexual agenda, using taxpayer-funded public schools as a vehicle. To bolster their point, the critics cite the fact that BOTH students and faculty are allowed to take part in the event. This year represents the tenth consecutive year that the Anchorage School District will have allowed participation in the Day of Silence. In 2007, an estimated 5,000 middle and high school students, representing approximately 10 percent of the district's student population of just under 50,000, participated.

Superintendent Carol Comeau said there have not been any reports of abuse based on sexual orientation in the Anchorage School District. She said the district is not promoting the "Day" and teachers will continue with lesson plans as normal, while taking into account that some students will not speak throughout the day. "What we've done is acknowledge the fact that some of our students want to participate in a national Day of Silence. And we've said that if you do it respectfully without causing a disruption we will say that's ok. So what they do is give a card to a teacher to say I'm participating in the national Day of Silence," said Comeau. The superintendent added that if parents don't want their child to attend school on the 25th, their child's absence would be excused regardless of the reason. [Ed. Note: The Alaska Family Council suggests that, for maximum effect, those parents who elect to keep their kids out of school that day inform school authorities that it is specifically because of the Day of Silence.]

Barbra Clark is a member of the Gay and Straight Alliance, and is also an organizer for the event, "Kids come in early in the morning or we might do it the day before. We give them an arm band or a rainbow ribbon to wear on their arms to designate that they are participating in the day of silence, plus we give them a speaking card."

But some parents have expressed frustration over the idea of students taking a vow of silence. And one of Alaska's leading pro-family organizations, the Alaska Family Council, has wasted little time in stepping up to the plate and representing their concerns. The Alaska Family Council believes the nationwide push of this event is designed to promote the homosexual agenda in Anchorage high schools. The Council suggests that if students are allowed to spend the day silently supporting the rights of lesbian, gay and transgender people, it could obstruct learning.

"Regardless of the issue, that's disruptive and that's having everyone in the school have to be effected by a particular message. And so whether it's ending the war in Iraq, promoting gun rights or opposing abortion," argues Council President Jim Minnery.

The Alaska Family Council offers a considerable wealth of information on their Day of Silence page for those who oppose the Day of Silence. First, they identify the Alaska high schools most likely to permit students to observe it, based upon if they observed it in 2007 or have registered Gay-Straight clubs on campus. Their list (which has contact phone numbers) includes all but one of the following high schools (highlighted schools have an active Gay-Straight Club):

- LATHROP HIGH SCHOOL. Lathrop doesn't have a specific "Gay-Straight Club", but has a "Youth for Multicultural Awareness Club", which may incorporate the gay issue.

**Bartlett doesn't appear on the Alaska Family Council's list, but it has an active Gay-Straight club, so its participation in the Day of Silence is quite likely.

For those outside Alaska, visit the MissionAmerica website and check this list to see if your school of interest is included. For those who would like to take their pro-family activism a bit further, the Alliance Defense Fund reminds us of the Day of Truth scheduled on April 28th. Students generally pass out flyers on campus explaining the truth about homosexuality. Unlike the Day of Silence, the Day of Truth involves no classroom disruption.

The impending Day of Silence has even triggered some debate up in Fairbanks. On April 9th, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner published an LTE from a grandmother who objects to it. The letter, at last count, resulted in 194 public comments in response. In a separate article published by the News-Miner on April 15th, in which West Valley High School's participation in the Day of Silence is confirmed, Wayne Gerke, assistant superintendent of secondary schools at the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, said he has received more inquires than complaints about the Day of Silence. The event is not an official school activity and is not sponsored by the school district but is a way for students to express their freedom of speech. Gerke said he believes the purpose of Day of Silence is not to promote homosexuality but rather to stand against bullying.

Gerke said school staff do not participate and students do not hand out any fliers or literature. The event does not disrupt the school environment, though Gerke admits some people might see being silent in class as a disruption. Gerke did not say if students who choose not to attend school that day in protest would be granted an excused absence, most likely because the local media forgot to ask him.

Gerke was also unable to say if a Day of Truth would be allowed in the schools because he is unfamiliar with the event, but in general he says events that allow students to exercise their freedom of speech without disrupting the school environment will be tolerated.

Commentary: While I object to this Day of Silence for philosophical reasons, at least Carol Comeau has enough to class to grant excused absences to those students who do not want to show up for school day. However, the projected nature of the event is inherently disruptive, because participants, to make a political point, will not be participating in classroom discussions. Class participation is part and parcel of the learning process, and it should not be disrupted for political purposes. Getting an education is the primary purpose of going to school, and when we return to that mission and drop the political correctness, the graduation rates will go up and the achievement gaps will narrow further.

1 comment:

  1. I don't see how participating in the Day of Silence is any more disruptive than not coming to school that day at all. It's ridiculous that the Alaska Family Association would criticize the Day of Silence for this reason, yet encourage students to engage in what is a much more disruptive activity, when the necessary make-up work, etc. that the teacher and students are required to devote time to is taken into account.