Bear River students shine a light on tolerance
Renee Gholikely, a 17-year-old senior at Bear River High School, didn’t say a word during most of the school hours during the recent national Day of Silence, except when her teachers addressed her.
Several of her friends held their tongues too, observing the nationwide commemoration in middle and high schools, colleges and universities of people who have been victims of hate crimes and discrimination.
“In our community, hate crimes haven’t been addressed the way they should be,” Gholikely said. “In school, I don’t see people tolerating minorities the way they should. Because we don’t live in a diverse culture, a lot of the students don’t realize the things they say can be offensive to other races, religions and all minorities.
“The thing I hear the most is the ‘N-word’ and just real insensitivity towards homosexuals. If there is an African-American kid or a Middle Eastern kid, he is pointed out. I hate hearing people refer to someone as ‘the black kid.’ I’ve heard that, and it’s not right,” Gholikely said.
The Day of Silence was organized at Bear River by Club START – it stands for Students Teaching Acceptance, Respect and Tolerance, said Gholikely, vice president of the club.
A form of bullying
Day of Silence has become the largest student-led effort to create safer schools for all since its inception in 1996 at the University of Virginia, according to its official Web site, http://www.dayofsilence.org.
“You witness bullying every day at school,” said Adrienne Brown, another 17-year-old Bear River senior and the president of Club START. “You see kids making remarks. They’ll say things like, ‘Oh! He’s so gay,'” without realizing the effects it would have on people.
Bear River High School has a no-tolerance policy toward bullying, Brown said. But most of the time, bullying incidents don’t get reported, she said.
For the Day of Silence, students of Club START set up a booth before school and distributed wristbands, cards and stickers to their colleagues saying why they weren’t talking that day. In addition, students put posters around the school telling the stories of victims of hate crimes. During lunch break, they distributed flyers with hate crime statistics.
“Bullying and harassment happens in all high schools,” said Lew Boxer, part-time Bear River teacher and advisor to Club START. “But these kids went out and spoke against it. They found out about the Day of Silence, and said, ‘Why don’t we observe it at Bear River?'”
To contact Staff Writer Soumitro Sen, e-mail soumitros @theunion.com or call 477-4229.
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