YOUTH: Shhhh! SHS students zip lips for the silencedStudents around Superior High School vowed to not talk for an entire day this spring to recognize those affected by prejudice.
By: By CAITLIN PENDLETON / Spartan Spin, The Daily Telegram
Students around Superior High School vowed to not talk for an entire day this spring to recognize those affected by prejudice.
When a friend of senior Marcia Houle asked her if he could borrow some money on April 23, Houle was silent, not because she did not have any money, but because she was a devout participant in this year’s Day of Silence.
Throughout the entire school day, about 75 students defied the teenage norm of gabbing the day away by refusing to speak. Their silence was an effort to honor and bring attention to people who have been literally and metaphorically forced to be silent because of discrimination.
“The Day of Silence basically applies to all of the ‘isms,’ like racism, sexism, ageism, and classism. We’re looking to connect with as many people as possible,” Day of Silence advisor Rachael Holden said.
Organized by the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), this year’s Day of Silence was unique because it was dedicated to one victim of prejudice in particular. This person was Lawrence King, an eighth-grade student at a California middle school who was shot in his first-hour class on Feb. 12.
Prosecutors of the case labeled it a hate crime because of two factors. The first was that King was openly gay and the second was that King had previously asked the shooter to be his valentine.
“It was messed up and wrong. Just because he was gay didn’t mean he should have been shot,” Houle said. “Everyone should just let people be themselves.”
For sophomore Nikki Nikunen, who is a member of the GSA and helped with the planning of the Day of Silence, it was a day meant to realize how discrimination is still alive at a local level.
“I did the Day of Silence because a lot of people here, be it staff or students, have been affected by prejudice in some way, shape or form,” Nikunen said.
Students participating in the Day of Silence were forced to communicate in odd ways, including hand gestures, facial expressions, and writing thoughts down in a notebook.
Freshman Timothy Sislo used the last method.
On each page of notebook paper, he wrote phrases such as “Yes,” “No,” and” Can I go to the bathroom? Whenever someone asked him a question, he would flash them the appropriate piece of paper.
“Most people laughed when I showed them the notebook. It was just a really fun way to communicate with people,” Sislo said.
Some students, however, chose not to participate in the Day of Silence for personal reasons.
“I might do the Day of Silence for the racism part, but definitely not for the gay rights,” sophomore Jacob Peterson said. “It’s not right. God made guys to be with girls.”
Since the first Day of Silence was organized at the University of Virginia in February 1996, more than 500,000 students at nearly 4,000 schools have held their own Day of Silence, making it one of the largest student-led actions in the country.
Caitlin Pendleton writes for The Spartan Spin, the student newspaper at Superior High School. The newspaper is published bimonthly by members of the Student Perspectives class. The paper is available online at www.spartanspin.com. Subscriptions are available by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.