Yellow police tape separated supporters and opponents of Mount Si High School’s controversial Day of Silence event during a tense, and at times, loud demonstration outside the school the morning of Friday, April 25.
Snoqualmie police warned the most antagonistic adversaries of Redmond pastor Ken Hutcherson, who had rallied about 100 protesters to pray and sing Christian hymns at 10 a.m. Hutcherson and his allies decried the school’s participation in the Day of Silence, a nationwide event in which students may choose to take a daylong vow of silence to raise awareness of discrimination that gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-gendered youth face.
Some of about 50 counter-protesters chanted “Go home,” blew whistles and beat a drum in an attempt to drown out Hutcherson’s group’s prayer. One, a recent Mount Si graduate, held up a sign reading “Throw rocks here” near Hutcherson’s head.
On campus, roughly 200 trained students participated in the Day of Silence, and about a third of students skipped school altogether. Students and school administrators said that classes proceeded as normal and no incidents were reported.
Nick Norlin, a Mount Si freshman who said he was neutral on the Day of Silence, ate Doritos and watched the scene from a lawn chair in the back of a pickup truck parked across the street.
He said he would have felt safe going to class that day, but his mother had told him not to attend.
“She was worried I’d get shot,” he said.
As long as their parents write notes, student absences will be excused, said Snoqualmie Valley School District spokeswoman Carolyn Malcolm. She reported that 492 of 1,410 Mount Si students were absent.
This was Mount Si’s third year participating in the student-led Day of Silence, coordinated by the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance. More than 200 schools in Washington observed the event, but Mount Si’s participation has been in the spotlight since some parents and community members formed a group to combat the indoctrination they say Valley educators are imposing on children. Their claims were first aimed at two teachers who protested Hutcherson’s speech at a school assembly on civil rights on Martin Luther King Day in January. One teacher booed Hutcherson, and another asked him a pointed question about his opposition to gay rights.
Hutcherson, whose daughter attends Mount Si, said the pro-gay Day of Silence is inappropriate during school hours.