Giving Menchville High School and the surrounding community a voice

The Lion's Roar

Students Come Together at Todd Stadium to Break The Silence

Kelly Ritenour, Staff Writer

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For the LGBT community, silence is an issue. Many people are forced to be silent about who they love or how they identify due to the violence and prejudice that wreaks havoc on the LGBT community. An organization known as the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has taken the pressing issue of silence due to violence and used it as a tool to help raise awareness by creating a national Day of Silence.

 

Many Menchville Monarchs participated in the Day of Silence. On the morning of Friday the 21st, students from the Menchville Gay Straight Alliance gathered in the library, sitting quietly and passing out strips of duct tape to cover their mouths. When the bell rang, the students went their separate ways to class, speaking to no one.

 

Luckily, the silence had its desired effect. Other classmates became curious as to why select students were refusing to speak. When they asked, the Day of Silence participants handed them a letter explaining that their silence was meant to echo the silence brought on by violence and hate against the LGBT community.

“Most of the students just started asking me questions about it, and were like “oh what is this? What is this for?” And I gave them my little paper and stuff. But they were all very intrigued, nobody like, discouraged me for it and it was really fun, but it was hard to stay quiet the whole time.” said student and Gay Straight Alliance member, Adam Dunlap.

 

The most important aspect of an event like this is the reaction from the surrounding community. Most students responded positively to the silence, and congratulated their fellow  students on their attempts to raise awareness of a pressing issue. However, certain people saw the silence of their fellow students as an advantage, and a game. Some students occasionally shouted slurs or offensive comments to see if they could get a rise out of their peers and end the silence. “It’s the same people that I know that are always saying these things, but like, it made sense to like, keep going. I didn’t try and stop and tell them not to.” said  Alexis Warner, another member of the Menchville Gay Straight Alliance who was eager to participate and share her story.

 

After a day of quiet, the students of the Menchville Gay Straight Alliance gathered with those from Warwick High School to end their silence and enjoy festivities at the Breaking The Silence rally at Todd Stadium. Tables were decorated with rainbow banners and handmade signs spreading love and peace. Volunteers handed out refreshments, necklaces, bracelets, pride flags, and resources bullied and rejected LGBT students might need. Kristi Jackson, the Gay Straight Alliance sponsor of Warwick High school and organizer of this event, officially broke the silence and gave a speech about the importance of raising awareness and creating a safe environment within all schools. “We need to let these kids know that we see them, that we value them and support them and will do everything in our power to protect them.” says Jackson, followed by a wave of cheers from the audience.

 

Kim Davies, the sponsor of the Menchville Gay Straight Alliance, also attended and lended her voice in speaking about the job of administrators to protect LGBT students. “They can continue this conversation like we’re doing today. They can continue the conversation about  protecting the rights of LGBT students, giving LGBT students a voice and of course just embracing LGBT students as they would any other student in the Menchville community, and they do a fabulous job of that.” Davies continued, “The day of silence is an important event because it actually, through the silence, it gives voice to a community that possibly isn’t heard on some occasions, and it just allows, I think, the students to express themselves and what’s important to them and it’s an opportunity for us to get together and experience community and any time that we can do a community building activity I think it’s a benefit for all.”

 

Not only were GSA students and sponsors there, but also influential members of the community such as Shelly Simmonds: a member of the NNPS school board, Clay Porter: from the LGBT center of Hampton Roads, and Jessica Pennington: the LGBT Liaison for the NNPD. Mrs. Pennington deals directly with cases involving people of the LGBT community, and is their hands-on voice in the police department. She was inspired to help when she witnessed the struggle her best friend faced when she lost friends and family after bravely coming out.

 

Shelly Simmonds is a hard working school board member who is pushing for programs to end bullying and discrimination in schools. “Last year we had an outpouring of concerns about bullying after the sad passing of Dejah at Woodside High School, and the administration and the school board really listened and we already have something called youth development in our school system. So  we asked them to create an initiative to represent students coming together to stand up for each other. that initiative is called STAND, and I don’t know if you’ve heard about the STAND initiative but really that is a response to concerns about bullying and making sure that if you see something that you say something, that we stand up for each other, that we stand up as individuals and really make sure we take the time to volunteer for our community and support each other.”

 All in all, the Day of Silence and Breaking The Silence rally was deemed effective by the participants. It is hopeful that the event will take place again next year, with an even bigger group and impact.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Students Come Together at Todd Stadium to Break The Silence”

  1. Ashley Weiss on May 26th, 2017 8:00 am

    I absolutely love this

    [Reply]

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