Walpole High Takes a Vow of Silence in Protest to Bullying

Walpole High Takes a Vow of Silence in Protest to Bullying

jenniferharrop

Early in September, junior Jaquil Brooks–along with staff members Ms. Susan Wick and Mrs. Lara Fasolino–started a Gay-Straight Alliance/Diversity Club at Walpole High.  Over the course of the school year, the GSA club has supported and advocated diversity among the student body and has helped many students realize that one person can make a difference by standing up to any form of hatred.  The GSA/Diversity club’s next movement toward an anti-bullying environment at Walpole High–the Day of Silence–occurs at Walpole High School on Thursday, May 5.  Supported by Ms. Wick and Mrs. Fasolino, Brooks has decided to run the Day of Silence, which is an annual day of action in protest to the bullying and harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LBGT) students at the school. The Day of Silence is typically hosted by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) in April, but Brooks has decided to run a separate one for students at Walpole High only.

Brooks has decided to run the Day of Silence at WHS because he believes our school needs to become more tolerant of others.  He said,  “[The students] need to show each other that issues, like bullying and harassment, can’t just be ignored anymore.”  Recent reports of homophobia at this school, as well as recent statistics on the suicide rate of bullying victims — particularly involving LGBT students — has caused Brooks and the GSA/Diversity club to become more involved in reminding students that “if bullying can happen somewhere else, it can easily happen here.” By bringing the Day of Silence to the halls of Walpole High School, Brooks is making the student body aware of LGBT bullying, and preventing the further spread of it in our school.

With a cause as controversial in today’s political world as LGBT rights, opponents were expected, but they have not delayed Brooks, Ms. Wick or Mrs. Fasolino from fighting for the cause.  Brooks views the Day of Silence as a day of true meaning and a way for some students to educate themselves on the cause.  Brooks said, “I tell [people] to become more open-minded because their ignorance will get them nowhere in life. Homophobia or any other discrimination or prejudice needs to stop now,” and the Day of Silence will become a platform to help prevent it. Even with the presence of homophobia and prejudice in today’s world, and even in our school, the Day of Silence has already surpassed expectations. The GSA/Diversity Club had only anticipated around 20 to 30 students to be involved or interested in the Day of Silence when first introducing the idea of the event, but by Friday April 29, over 120 students, about a tenth of the student body, had signed  up to partake in the silence. Brooks said of the event’s success that “there will be no possible way for others not to have any awareness about what is going on, and hopefully this will spark more of an interest in other students” to become aware of LGBT bullying.

The vow of silence taken by over 120 students will be affecting school activities throughout the day on May 5 in an effort to support those students who have been silenced by LGBT bullying. Students who have signed a contract with the GSA/Diversity club will not be able to verbally communicate with others until the bell rings to end the school day at 2:05 p.m. Other than taking a vow of silence, students have to do very little. If asked or talked to by another student or faculty member during the day, participants are supposed to show others their card “to help explain the cause and help them understand we’re silent and why,” said Brooks.

The GSA/Diversity club has been making great strides toward creating a more diverse and accepting student body since mid-September.  Various successful “diversity pride days” have been hosted by the club in order to protest against hate and prejudice in the school’s environment, but the latest effort made by the club — the Day of Silence — thus far has proven to be the most successful in promoting diversity and acceptance.  Due to many students pledging to remain silent in honor of friends, classmates, and even strangers who have been victims of homophobia and bullying, this popular event has the widespread potential to become an annual tradition — a tradition that would undoubtedly promote a more tolerant community in the future.