Saturday, 17 April 2010

The Day of Silence - Glendale - Armenian Diaspora

*via Glendale News Press

Support in silence

                        (Raul Roa/News-Press)

Glendale High students spend lunch period protesting hate.

By Max Zimbert
Published: Last Updated Friday, April 16, 2010 10:09 PM PDT
About two dozen Glendale High School students and teachers were taking their seats Friday to protest prejudice and harassment of all types, when a student a few yards away repeatedly yelled a derogatory term for homosexuals.

The incident occurred as students handed out small notices that said they muted themselves to represent the unheard victims of discrimination and name-calling as part of the national Day of Silence. Participating students kept silent all day and wrote their responses to questions.

“It’s more of a shock that he said it out loud,” wrote Vahe Gabri, a senior. “You will hear it, but as a whisper when they pass you or when no one is around.”

Punishment for harassment or discrimination is typically a suspension, administrators said.

“It’s 2010, but you still hear, see and witness acts of discrimination toward a group,” Principal Deb Rinder said. “Any time there’s something new or different or whatever, it requires dialogue and education, because in my opinion, knowledge is power.”

Many of the participating students were members of the Gay-Straight Alliance, a student club that they say is a safe place.

“I love it,” sophomore Isaac Espinosa wrote. “You make new friends, family and new adventures.”

Gay-straight alliances are controversial at Glendale Unified’s high schools. In 2008, parents spoke against the clubs at a school board meeting, saying administrators had no right to let the clubs exist. But those arguments failed to get traction with district officials who said students had the 1st Amendment right to organize.

Students sat silently in a circle Friday in the middle of the school quad. Some held hands and embraced, while others wrote and passed notes.

“We are here to, in short, battle all hate,” wrote Kit Romire, a senior and club president. “This year, homophobia really hit.”

Christa Bretz, the faculty advisor to the school club, sent out notices Wednesday, informing the campus community of the day and its intent. She did so deliberately, she said, to avoid counter protests.

“It gives less time for conflict and controversy, but less time for people to become aware of it and participate in it,” she said.

Freshmen Savanna Asadoorian and Sose Abraamyan said Glendale High students are tolerant, and the school is a safe place to learn. Harassment or name calling stems from ignorance, Savanna said.

“It’s not intentionally to hurt anyone,” she said.

But students got the alliance’s message, Sose said. And teacher participation would foster conversations about respect and tolerance, said David Spiegel, a teacher.

“Kids ask, ‘Why were you there?’” he said. “There’ll be a lot of discussions next period . . . and I think that’s where a lot of growth happens.”

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