Students Foster a Safe, Inclusive Community

By Zack Venable, Grade 11
Led by Upper School student club The Alliance, many Upper School students voluntarily participated in the National Day of Silence last month along with more than 8,000 schools across the country.
Led by Upper School student club The Alliance, many Upper School students voluntarily participated in the National Day of Silence last month along with more than 8,000 schools across the country to create a safer, more inclusive school community for all students regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. The central focus of the day is for participants to voluntarily be silent in an effort to understand and symbolize those who are unable to be themselves without fear of bullying and harassment.

Additionally, The Alliance hosted a discussion to provide personal perspective on the conversation around anti-gay bullying, homophobia, relationships, community and identity with panelists who have a close family member who is gay. Participants included Upper School Spanish teacher Mrs. Jacobson, who spoke about her son; Upper School College Counselor Mr. Fulk, who spoke about his uncle; ECDC teacher, Ms. Tacquard, spoke about her son; Stanton Morales, spoke about his mom; Upper School English Teacher Mr. Clemmons, who spoke about his sister; and finally Lower School art teacher Mrs. Mayer, who spoke about her father.

Panelists shared their personal stories of when their family member came out to them, and how they and their families responded. While each story was unique, all panelists expressed a very optimistic tone that acceptance of people of any sexual orientation is not just an ideal thought, but a very attainable reality in the near future.

Mr. Fulk, one of the panelists, shared his thoughts on the activity. “After the panel, I received overwhelmingly positive feedback from students who found the Day of Silence activities helpful. Several speakers commented that in the near future, these Day of Silence panels will not be necessary. Given the response I have received, I share that optimism.”

Freshmen and Sophomore Dean of Men Mr. Marmelstein said, “At St. Margaret's, if we are truly living out the ethos of the Episcopal tradition, we wouldn't have those in our midst who do not have a voice, who live in painful silence for fear of not being loved and accepted for who they are. I think we have come a long way but we still have work to do. Cut away all of the religion and I can sum up the entire ministry of Jesus Christ in four words: Love God, love people."

The Alliance set the stage for the Day of Silence by sharing a video for all advisory groups to watch on Wednesday. The video was made by Jonah Mowry, an Orange County teen whose heartfelt story of homophobic bullying and discrimination nearly brought him to suicide. In the clip, that is now famous online and has brought him world-wide attention, Jonah is completely silent and holds up several flashcards which tell his past struggles, present worries, and future optimism. Jonah’s story hit home for many students.

Founded in 1996, the Day of Silence has become the largest single student-led action towards creating safer schools for all. From the first Day of Silence at the University of Virginia, to the organizing efforts in thousands of middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities, its history reflects its diversity in both numbers and reach.
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