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Principal defends Day of Silence

Despite some parents' and students' objections to the Day of Silence, Mount Si High School Principal Randy Taylor told the Snoqualmie Valley School District board last week that the high school's Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) had begun planning this year's event, scheduled for April 25.

Taylor said organizers were working to set expectations of respect for all students - participants and non-participants - on the Day of Silence, which is part of a nationwide effort to raise awareness of gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans-gendered and questioning (LGBTQ) students and allies who do not feel safe enough to speak their true voice.

"The Day of Silence is just one [of many school activities] that sends a powerful message that all students are respected and have the right to learn regardless of the label they wear at school, at home or in the community. We are a better school because of activities like the Day of Silence," Taylor said at the standing-room-only meeting Thursday, March 6.

Students can choose to wear armbands indicating their support of the Day of Silence, and have the option of not speaking for all or part of the day.

Objectors have said that the day detracts from learning and creates tension at school.

While previous years' events yielded no reported incidents, Superintendent Joel Aune recognized that there were "some problems" among students.

Mount Si junior Landon Wilson told the board that two years ago, he was slapped by another student when he wore a "straight pride" T-shirt to school on the Day of Silence. He said that when he tried to remain neutral the next year, his peers made him feel so uncomfortable for not participating that he left campus before dismissal.

"It's not a day where education takes place to the full extent," he said.

Taylor said Day of Silenceorganizers had learned from experience, and that this year, "the expectations are going to be clear. The communication is going to be more up-front."

He said the GSA was working to address "the blatant misconception that participating or not participating in the Day of Silence is about choosing a side and drawing lines over GLBTQ rights."

Taylor added that staff members and students would be educated on expectations for the day, and communication with parents would remain open.

Aune said that participating in the Day of Silence is within students' right to free expression, and that "any form of bullying will not be tolerated."

Mount Si parents and other community members belonging to a group called the Coalition to Defend Education (CoDE) wrote in a letter to the school board and Mount Si administration that the Day of Silence creates an unsafe environment for non-participating students, whom they claim are labeled as anti-gay. They also wrote that the Day of Silence is a distraction to learning, and shapes a school environment where school employees feel emboldened to advocate their personal opinions.

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