Gilbert schools want off Day of Silence list - East Valley Tribune: News

Gilbert schools want off Day of Silence list

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Posted: Monday, April 14, 2008 8:05 pm | Updated: 9:48 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Two principals in the Gilbert Unified School District have asked that their schools not be listed as participants in the National Day of Silence by an organization opposing the event.

MissionAmerica.com's Web site listed Desert Ridge High and Gilbert High schools as participants in the Day of Silence, which is sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. The schools' principals asked that MissionAmerica.com, a Christian group, remove the school names after pressure from the family members of some students.

Desert Ridge's name has since been removed, although Gilbert High was still on the list as of Monday.

Students at those schools as well as Gilbert's two other high schools have signed up with the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network to participate. Students in 97 Arizona schools have signed up.

The Day of Silence asks students to be silent on April 25 to bring attention to bullying and harassment in schools based on sexual orientation. The students who participate hand out "speaking cards" explaining why they are choosing not to talk.

Daryl Presgraves, spokesman for the New York-based Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, said schools don't participate, students do. He said the list is being sent around with "a lot of misinformation."

"We're kind of upset that some people are being harassed," he said. "This is an effort to cause problems when the day is about solutions. We find it hard to believe people can be against students trying to make their school safer by addressing a problem with bullying and harassment."

The Rev. Bradford Bryant asked the Gilbert school board last week not to support the day. He said that because of the school's decision to allow the "politicalization" of the learning environment, he would not allow his granddaughter to go to school that day.

However, Bryant said Monday his granddaughter will now be attending school April 25 because of the district's guidelines for students who observe the day and the district's response to his concern.

"My concern is that we're talking about a very small percentage of folks who are of that persuasion," he said. "To think that they can intimidate or force a majority to observe that day is ludicrous."

The school district has no "official" position regarding the day, said Dave Allison, associate superintendent. But if students choose not to participate and not talk in class, the consequences are up to the individual teacher, he said.

Matt Heil, co-chairman of the Phoenix chapter of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, said students who choose to be silent are asked to get permission first, and if they can't participate by not speaking in class, to choose to be silent between classes or at lunch.

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