Janesville60.3°

Day of Silence draws more than ever before

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GINA R. HEINE
April 26, 2008
— As the 3:20 p.m. bell rang Friday at Craig High School, a circle of arm-linked students took a deep breath.

The collective scream that followed to break the eight hours of silence was louder than Blair Mishleau’s ever heard it.


“We were all so happy, so emotional,” said Mishleau, co-president of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance. “I’m sure they heard it throughout the entire school.”


Participation in the national Day of Silence at Craig took a “quantum leap,” tripling that of previous years with about 60 students vowing not to speak during the day, he said.


“It went better than in my wildest dreams, and I’m not exaggerating one bit,” he said.


The event brought similar results at Parker High School, GSA adviser Deri Wahlert said.


“We had a lot more people than past years,” she said.


The silence is meant to bring attention to the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, who fear name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools across the country.


Students who participated had sets of cards to give to people to explain why they weren’t speaking, and many also carried notebooks or whiteboards.


At Parker, a handful of students wore stickers that said “Anti-Day of Silence,” Wahlert said. She talked to a couple of the students who said their issue was that the protest was during the day, she said.


“They thought it kind of drew attention away from the curriculum and was more of a distraction for them,” she said. “I can understand that.”


Controversy over the Day of Silence started at Tuesday’s school board meeting when board member Bill Sodemann and his wife, Kay, and residents raised questions and concerns over informational posters hung by members of the alliance in the high schools’ hallways.


But Mishleau said he was pleased to see people understood the message of the day, which was safety in schools—not promoting the gay lifestyle. When he showed up to school early, he didn’t see the usual group of people on the sidewalk protesting the event as he has in the past.


“It was very nice to see that they weren’t there,” he said.


Officials haven’t figured out who took down informational posters about the day from the walls at Parker earlier this week, Wahlert said.



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