On April 15, McGuffey High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance Club observed a Day of Silence, a national day of action in which students across the country vow to stay silent to call attention to the effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools, per Day of Silence’s website.
The observance at the Washington County high school was met with alleged bullying and harassment from classmates — the kind the GSAC was trying to resolve and call attention to. Students opposing these actions organized their own awareness day the following day, Anti-Gay Day.
According to the Observer-Reporter, Washington’s local newspaper, approximately 100 mostly male students came to school on Thursday wearing matching flannel with messages of “anti-gay” literally written on their hands. Those who had participated in the school’s Day of Silence were singled out, with bible verses and anti-gay flyers posted to their lockers. WPXI-TV reported that students “wore orange Friday and allegedly have another five days’ worth of ‘anti-gay’ attire” planned for this week.
McGuffey Superintendent Erica Kolat released a statement saying the administration and school police officers have been and continue to investigate all allegations.
“McGuffey School District is committed to providing a safe, supportive environment for all children,” Kolat said in a statement.
While McGuffey may seek to provide this type of environment, the school is far from it today. Although the district said it has not found truth to the rumors of these “anti-gay” protests, there have been ample posts on social media, including Instagram posts of students posed in flannels. If the school does find those responsible, there is likely no action the school can take. This situation is one that is in a gray area regarding the First Amendment.
But while reprimanding those students may make a statement, it ultimately won’t help. Per the Observer Reporter, representatives of Washington County Gay-Straight Alliance have been attending McGuffey school board meetings for months after learning that people were coming before the board and making comments in opposition to the school’s GSAC. There is a much larger issue here — the culture of the town.
In a small town like McGuffey, people are born there and die there. The area is isolated from progressive thinking. It’s an incubator for pre-existing thoughts and old ways. The silver lining of this otherwise disgraceful series of events is that with the amount of coverage McGuffey’s “anti-gay” observances are getting, it might bring an outside perspective into the community: homophobia is outdated and so is 20th Century thinking.