A silent protest ended up making a lot of noise in New Castle Wednesday.WTHR also reported school officials will allow homobigots to demonstrate against gay and lesbian students tomorrow to show the school isn't taking sides in the debate. The Star has more on the counter-protest:
Wearing shirts of peace and signs of tolerance, it was meant to be a wordless protest: students were showing support for gay and lesbian rights through the National Day of Silence.
"To show that humiliation and harassment of homosexuals in schools is a big issue and we decided to remain silent all day to show the support of that," said Erin Conley, student protester.
The Day of Silence is an annual event held to bring attention to the bullying and harassment of lesbian and gay students. The student-run action is observed nationwide by some students and teachers in silence "to echo the silence that LGBT and ally students face everyday," according to the Day of Silence site. The Day of silence is in its 11th year.
But the silent protest brought threats of weapons and violence at New Castle Chyrsler High School. School leaders learned of the threat with a phone call Tuesday "from someone who identified himself as a parent who said their child came home and said they heard there was going to be some violence at the school today. It gave us concern that maybe we needed to step up security a little bit today to make sure the students would be safe," said John Newby, New Castle Schools superintendent.
From the start of class, the school went into complete lockdown for the entire day.
"They took us all to the fieldhouse and we sat there for like two hours. They took us one by one and they scanned us with metal detectors," said Skylar Ward, student.
"Did locker checks for everybody, went through all the classrooms, made sure there were no weapons," said Cayla Boyles. "People were wearing their shirts for it and people were wearing shirts against it and it just caused a lot of drama that I didn't think was needed."
Students say they agreed with the decision to lock down the building but expressed frustration at the potential violent response to a peaceful protest.
"There were a lot of other kids making a big deal about it and trying to threaten to people and saying they were gonna bring guns to school and it was just intolerant," said Jacob Anderson, student.
"If they had just let the kids be quiet in class then I don't think any of this would've happened," said Olivia Garcia, student.
New Castle schools did consult with attorneys to find out if they had to allow students to participate. According to attorneys, silence is a form of speech.
In response, other students are planning to observe a "Day of Truth" on Thursday, said sophomore Kristen Schmeisser."A simple, positive message" promoting intolerance of gays and lesbians is a bit of an oxymoron, particularly in light of today's lockdown created by fears of violence from an atmosphere of intolerance.
That also coincides with a national observance, this one planned by the Alliance Defense Fund. Its day is devoted to countering the "homosexual agenda" and presenting an "opposing viewpoint from a Christian perspective," according to the fund's Web site.
Students supporting the Day of Truth may wear T-shirts and pass out cards stating "a simple, positive message" between classes, said Mike Johnson, the fund's senior legal counsel. The fund started its day about three years ago.
"The idea was to allow an opportunity for Christian students and those who adhere to a traditional moral viewpoint ... to respectfully present their side of the issue," Johnson said. "What we've found is typically it's the Christian kids who are being censored in their speech so that's why this is being created for them."
He expects more than 6,000 students from hundreds of high schools to participate.