Students in a Washington County school are attempting to harass and intimidate their LGBTQ peers with what seems to be a coordinated “anti-gay” activities, including wearing coordinated clothing and targeting the lockers of LGBTQ students.
A group of students allegedly spread the news that if they were “anti-gay,” they were to wear a flannel shirt and write “Anti-Gay” on their hands.
“It hurts me to see how rude and cruel, and some of these people were my friends before this started,” said Zoe Johnson, a student at McGuffey High School.
The students allegedly organized the “Anti-Gay Day” in response to the observance of the nationally recognized “Day of Silence,” where attention is called to gay and lesbian bullying and harassment in schools.
“Yesterday, there was pushing, posters hung on homosexual students’ lockers. Teachers were having to run out and take them down,” said Johnson.
I have to insert a #wtf moment and point out that using flannel to harass queer kids is going to really piss off the lesbians, especially the lesbian moms. That’s a bad idea.
But on a very serious note, this is a troubling turn of events. These kids didn’t just spontaneously pull a homophobic move. They have a plan. They have coordinated outfits. They live and attend school in a county with no discrimination protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. I bet they have parents who share these hateful little views.
Claysville is in Washington County, about 30 minutes away from Downtown Pittsburgh. Washington County has a member of council who used a gay slur on municipal email. Washington County was targeted by the Pennsylvania Family Research Council for an anti-transgender attack during a recent election (and their guy won.)
Washington County also has resources, including a Gay Straight Alliance and monthly activities sponsored by Persad Center. And those investments in the region are paying off as some brave students took their grievances about this attack to the school board.
A school board meeting was held on Thursday evening during which three student members of McGuffey High School’s Gay Straight Alliance Club brought the matter to the board’s attention and spoke out against the day’s events.
Kathy Cameron, chair of the board of directors of the Washington County Gay Straight Alliance in Washington County, Pennsylvania, was present at the meeting. According to Cameron, she and other members of the Washington County GSA had been attending school board meetings since January of this year in hopes of promoting a more tolerant climate in the district.
The school board and school administration are promising to investigate. It is critical that educators and administrators support youth who are being targeted, but it is also important that the community rally behind them as well.
One student posted a detailed account of the assault on LGBTQ students.
On Thursday, April 16, photographic evidence surfaced on social media sites including Facebook and Instagram that a number of male students had gone to school wearing flannel shirts in support of a so-called “Anti-Gay Day.”
According to a public post on Facebook by a McGuffey student, “today, the boys at McGuffey high school thought it would be a good idea to wear flannel to show ‘Anti-Gay’ Support, in a bashful way. People wrote ‘Anti-Gay’ on their bodies, and also pushed, shoved, and verbally attacked fellow students who participated in ‘Day Of Silence’, and hung ‘Anti-Gay’ posters all around the school.”
This post was accompanied by numerous photos of male students wearing flannel shirts, with at least one photo of a student whose face was obscured but had “Anti-Gay” written and underlined on his hand, with a heavy dark cross underneath the hateful slogan.
The ‘Day of Silence’ seems to generate such vitriol each year, a sign that it both needed and effective. If the act of passively refusing to engage in a dialogue that often erases and invalidates their identity is so significant, what does that say to you?
To me, this says that more people in Washington County need to address this very specific incident. The residents of this school district, the churches in this county, elected officials – they must all take a stand against “anti-gay” tactics that interfere with the educational experiences of students in the public schools. And they have to intervene with the students who are bullying and harassing their classmates based on their own ignorance and intolerance. What will the future of Washington County be like if people fail to respond to this behavior?
And maybe lesbians need to start taking some selfies wearing flannel in support of the students at this high school and raise some funds for the Washington County Gay Straight Alliance.