A Day of Silence for Dougherty Valley High

Dougherty Valley High’s Gay Straight Alliance club joined the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network to bring awareness to bullying and harassment of LGBT students.

Students at Dougherty Valley High School held a Day of Silence on Friday to bring awareness to the bullying and harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.

This event is part of an international movement by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

Participating students spent the school day in red shirts with duct tape over their mouths.

“The Day of Silence is [Gay Straight Aliance’s] biggest event of the year that we organize,” said Ethan Choy, Dougherty Valley GSA vice president. “What it means to me personally is really how we can empathize with people who are still hiding or people who have come out and how they felt originally.”

About 80 students wore the red shirts and placed colorful duct tape over their mouths. And more than 400 of the school’s 1,600 students showed their support by wearing bracelets or ribbons on their wrists.

“I want to make this school more tolerant,” GSA President Cierra Green said. “I’ve noticed a difference in atmosphere on campus compared to my freshman and sophomore year. People are a lot more accepting. Today has been a lot easier than it was last year.”

In addition to student support, several faculty and staff members wore the red Day of Silence shirts, including Assistant Principal Jason Krolikowski.

“We don’t ask our teachers to judge morally or ethically wrong,” Krolikowksi said. “In this case, [the day of silence] is more about the student and how they feel, and we need them to come to school and feel accepted and that this is their home and a place to be and to feel safe [not just today, but everyday].”

The sentiment applies to all students.

“The staff responded very well,” Green said. “They say 'good job,' and they’re proud of us standing up for who we believe in.”

After giving a presentation to the faculty about the Day of Silence and its meaning, Green said she received three hugs from teachers.

“I talked about how high school is important times for us, because this is the time we get to figure out who we are,” she said. “And people who are silenced for being gay, they miss out on that opportunity, making it easier for society to mold them into who they want them to be because they can’t speak of who they are.”

Aside from a few laughs or snickers, the students said the event was well received, with other students showing support or indifference without ostracizing them or their cause.

“In classrooms I don’t feel as alone, but when I’m walking alone in hallways, I feel very alone,” Green said of wearing the duct tape. “You feel very isolated when you wear the duct tape. Everyone knows, you feel like the attention is all on you.”

The event was publicized with posters and announcements. Choy said that the most difficult part of organizing the day was convincing students to be brave enough to sign up.

“Some people you know are just OK with it,” Choy said. “They’ll sign up for it. They don’t care what people say. But people who we know are allies are still scared to support us sometimes, and that was probably the hardest part.”

GSA adviser Allison Gardiner said that students at Dougherty Valley are much more accepting than students at other schools at which she has taught.

“Kids have had things thrown at them, everything from being shoved into lockers, water bottles thrown at them, clay in art class, papers, just pushed in the hallway,” Gardiner said. “Especially on the Day of Silence, when that’s almost a spotlight on the issue.”

One of GSA's goals is to stop people from using the phrase “That’s so gay” as a substitute for words such as "dumb" or "stupid."

“To hear the word 'gay' as a substitute for 'dumb' or 'stupid' or 'unnecessary' is sort of derogatory and demeaning to people that are LGBT and just to kind of stop that is something powerful,” Gardiner said.

Green said that many students on campus have started to become more tolerant and have stopped using the phrase.

The students feel good about what they have accomplished through the GSA club, and about its mission to raise LGBT awareness and to bring equality to people of all sexual orientations.

“There are a lot of people being bulled, harassed and teased for being who they are, and I think it’s wrong,” Green said.” I think society should stop outcasting people, because we are all the same.”

Janice P Ellis April 22, 2011 at 06:25 PM
I'm sorry, G, but, perhaps you'd like to point out where the love, kindness and caring is in your posts, because I'm not finding it. And, I hate to break it to you, but, the "children" you refer to are actually knocking on the door of adulthood. This is Dougherty High school, not Dougherty Daycare. "Children" in high school, as you repeatedly refer to them, aren't quite as innocent as you think. I've thought a lot about this thread during the last few days. While I'm sure you love your children, I couldn't help but picture how you would react if your child came to you and said, "...I'm gay..." Instead of reacting with understanding and support, based on the viewpoints you've shared here, you would react with horror and a complete lack of understanding and acceptance. I find it interesting that you feel this kind of "outrageous event" should never take place again in any SAN RAMON school. What about events like this that are taking place in high schools in other cities? Is that OK, or do you only care about what's happening in your own back yard? It's like you're living in a bubble called San Ramon. With your comment about bringing in child protective services to conduct a "full blown investigation" though, I'm done. That one comment told me everything I need to know.
G April 23, 2011 at 04:13 AM
Yes, love, caring, and respect for all the children regardless of their sexual preference. This event is unacceptable and inappropiate for any school any where in the nation. They are children and do not need to be exposed to sexuality,alternative life styles, or exploited by adults with social agendas at school. Leave the children alone and find another venue to push this nonsense and social agenda. I spoke with other parents around the bay area, and throughout the country and they all agree this is weird and bizzare. I know of no other school in the country that would host such a humiliating event exploiting children and having children place tape over their mouths except at DVHS. This is unacceptable and needs to be stopped from ever happening again.
Jennifer Wadsworth April 23, 2011 at 07:14 AM
G, I'm pretty sure the students themselves organized this event.
Linda Park April 23, 2011 at 04:52 PM
The students in the Gay Student Alliance club at DVHS organized this event themselves as part of a nationwide event organized by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. So this is definitely not an event coordinated by school officials or faculty, and it was in schools across the nation. Here is where you can find additional information on the event. http://dayofsilence.org/
G April 23, 2011 at 05:07 PM
The school and the officials we entrust to educate and protect our children from home while in their custody are ultimately responsible for every event that is brought into or that occurs on school property. The school officials should not have allowed this event to take place at DVHS, or any other school. Any responsible adult knows this event has no business in a school setting, and placing duct tape over any persons mouth for any reason is never acceptable, especially in a school setting. All the community is asking for is a change of venue and not during school hours. This event is a social agenda and should never take place at any school. It is offensive to many of the students, parents, and staff. School is difficult enough for our children without bringing in social agendas of any group regardless of what they are.


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