Region students to participate in national protest to raise
awareness of LGBT discrimination in schools
Dominick Halse may be enjoying his freshman year at Sage College
at Albany, the painful memories of his four years spent at
Maple Hill High School in Castleton are still visible in his
I faced in high school forever changed my life,” said Halse.
“That experience will always be with me because it was just
Other students constantly harassed Halse. At first, he said,
it was because people perceived him as gay. And later on,
when he came out as actually being gay, the treatment got
worse. Being mocked in class, hearing “I hate you, faggot”
as he walked the halls, getting beaten up at school dances,
and even receiving death threats, were all a part of his adolescent
know what it is like to have to go through the day being silent
for fear of being abused,” said Halse. “No one should ever
have to go through such treatment.”
This is why Halse and Andrew Marra, a junior at Bethlehem
Central High School, have been working since November with
the Capital Region’s Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network
to prepare for an official Day of Silence.
On Wednesday, April 10, thousands of students and faculty
members across the nation will take a vow of silence to make
a stand against discrimination in schools for lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender students. Instead of speaking, participants
will hand out note cards explaining the reason for their silence.
Both Halse and Marra are cochairs of the event for the Capital
Region. This is the second year that area schools are participating
in the national event, which started in 1997.
is to show others the difficulty that many LGBT students go
through in school,” said Marra, who adds that so far, nearly
300 students have signed up to participate at his school alone.
“Many kids live in silence because they are scared that if
they speak or act the way they really want to, they will be
made fun of. Or worse, physically abused. As a result, they
go through school remaining quiet as a way not to draw any
attention to themselves.”
According to Hatred in the Hallways: Discrimination and
Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Students
in U.S. Public Schools, a Human Rights Watch report issued
in May 2001, widespread harassment of LGBT students affects
as many as 2 million youths nationwide and has a direct, negative
impact on students’ emotional and physical health and academic
performance. As a result, the report charges, this population
is not receiving an adequate education.
The report found that LGBT students, and students perceived
to be such, spend an enormous amount of time mapping ways
to get to and from school to avoid being hurt. They also steer
clear of hallways when other students are present to avoid
slurs and shoves. Many cut gym classes to escape harassment
and, in short, spend the majority of their days trying to
called a faggot or dyke, getting pushed or shoved into lockers,
being spit upon and assaulted, doesn’t allow students to fully
grow or express themselves in school,” said Marra. “It deprives
many the full experience of school and the right to be a full
George Gnidowski, a senior at Mohanasen High School in Rotterdam,
is coordinating the event at his school, where 150 students
are expected to participate; he said he hopes many students
will get a sense of what it is like to walk in the shoes of
those who are constantly the subject of ridicule. He also
said that the Day of Silence will show the public how many
people are willing to take a stand against discrimination
schools have gotten a lot better, at least in the area, but
nationwide there is still a great need for improvement,” said
Gnidowski. “When you see all of these people remaining silent
and all of these people supporting antidiscrimination it sends
a powerful message.”
A rally titled Breaking the Silence also will take place on
April 10 at Albany High School at 4 PM.
more people talk about this issue, the closer we will come
to having all schools safe for all students,” said Martha
Shultz, a GLSEN board member.
You Don’t Look a Day Over 216 Months
first it seemed like an April Fool’s Day joke. On April 1,
the state Legislature and governor were late in passing the
state budget for the 18th year in a row, and a few blocks
away, three government reform groups were celebrating. But
this wasn’t any ordinary celebration: It was a birthday party.
In the LCA Press Room, decorated with streamers, candles,
banners and hats, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters
and NYPIRG celebrated the 18th birthday of Late Budget Boy.
Like all other men who turn 18, the Late Budget Boy spent
his birthday registering to vote and signing up for Selective
Service. However, it wasn’t simply an event to celebrate the
male rite of passage—Late Budget Boy’s birthday celebration
doubled as a news conference to discuss the late budget. With
legislators on recess until April 8, the budget will be at
least a week late this year—most likely later.
War—Before It Starts
chapter of Interfaith Alliance declares opposition to expected
U.S. military action against Iraq
Capital District Chapter of the Interfaith Alliance of New
York is flat-out against the U.S. government taking military
action against Iraq, and its members want their message to
be heard loud and clear—so much so that the group is calling
on its national chapter to endorse its antiwar resolution.
have not challenged this [President George W.] Bush rhetoric
for war, and everyone seems to be dancing to the drumbeat
for war,” said Bernard Fleishman, executive director of the
Capital Region Interfaith Alliance. “Someone has to speak
Fleishman said that with the help of the national organization,
the message to oppose military action in Iraq could reach
a much larger audience. Which in turn, he hopes, could spark
a national debate over the issue.
While President Bush hasn’t said whether the United States
will invade Iraq, he has accused the country of developing
weapons of mass destruction and sponsoring terrorists. He
said that Iraq, as well as North Korea and Iran, are part
of “the Axis of Evil,” and therefore potential targets of
the United States’ War on Terrorism. Bush told Reuters news
service that options are being considered that range from
diplomatic efforts to push Iraq President Saddam Hussein to
readmit U.N. weapons inspectors, to possible military action.
But many people think that the Bush administration is leaning
toward the latter and that plans to attack Iraq could be carried
out as early as this summer.
According to an article published on March 27 in London’s
The Guardian, the U.S. Air Force has begun to move
its Persian Gulf headquarters from Saudi Arabia to Qatar to
bypass Saudi objections to military action against Iraq. The
article also notes that the U.S military presence in the Middle
East and Central Asia has nearly doubled in recent months.
CBSNews.com reported similar information on March 30. Further,
the Turkish press quoted Vice President Dick Cheney as telling
Ariel Sharon that the United States was planning to attack
Iraq “first and foremost, for Israel’s sake.”
nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons program poses too
great a threat to U.S. national security for Saddam to remain,”
Bush told Reuters.
But Fleishman said that the Bush administration’s claims go
think that the push and the rhetoric of the Bush administration,
pointing toward war with Iraq, represents an irresponsible
and unnecessary move toward military measure,” said Fleishman.
“We don’t think that the evidence is there, in any sense,
that Iraq represents any real threat to the United States.”
On Tuesday, April 2, the Interfaith Alliance held a press
conference in Albany, where Scott Ritter, former chief United
Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, testified that 90 to 95
percent of Iraq’s weapons were destroyed and that the weapons
left in Iraq, if any, do not constitute a serious threat to
the United States.
is a devastated nation, a nation torn by war, torn by economic
sanction,” said Ritter. “Iraq has no capability whatsoever
of projecting military power outside of the borders of Iraq.”
said that the massive factories that Iraq used in 1990 and
1991 to produce weapons were identified and eliminated by
the weapons inspectors. When weapons inspectors left in December
1998, Ritter added, Iraq had been brought as close to zero
as a country can get in terms of disarmament. However, Ritter
said he would support any effort to resume weapons inspections
in Iraq to monitor the nation’s potential weapons-building
are told by our government that Iraq possesses chemical weapons,”
said Ritter. “But if we have such certainty of knowledge then
why isn’t this knowledge put forth in respect to the democratic
process so we, the people of the United States, can judge
for ourselves. . . . The reason is because those facts simply
Melissa Schwartz, media relations director for the National
Interfaith Alliance, said that at this time the organization
would not support the Capital District chapter’s resolution.
we respect the interests and decisions of our local alliances,”
said Schwartz, “The Interfaith Alliance’s national board has
chosen to focus on domestic issues so that we can be most
effective in our work. Local alliances have a great deal of
freedom to pursue their agenda, and though we will receive
their call, without board action we cannot change our focus.”