Life The View From Mt. Si
posted by January 17 at 17:35 PMon
The Stranger’s Jonah Spangenthal-Lee jumped in a car this afternoon and headed out to Mt. Si High School to see what all the fuss was about.
The school’s principal, Randy Taylor, told Jonah that having Rev. Ken Hutcherson speak at today’s Martin Luther King, Jr., assembly was a fine idea.
“Hutch has a profound life history,” Taylor told Jonah. “All of the students of color were very appreciative of Dr. Hutcherson coming in and giving a speech.”
Taylor suggested that the members of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance who were upset by Hutcherson’s appearance should have been able to separate Hutcherson’s speeches against gay rights from the speech he gave today about his experiences as a black man. The teachers who booed and publicly questioned Hutcherson, Taylor said, had behaved in a “very unprofessional” manner.
The school’s policy on bringing in speakers, according to Taylor, is: “If what they’re about is hate, prejudice, and violence, they don’t belong here.” He saw no conflict between that policy and inviting Hutcherson.
“Hutch’s message was very appropriate for our kids,” Taylor said. Asked whether it was appropriate for the school’s gay students, Taylor replied: “Well, you’ll have to ask the students that.”
Jonah spoke to a number of students who shared Taylor’s view that it was inappropriate to give Hutcherson such a poor reception.
A 17-year-old student named Quinn told Jonah that today’s events would further marginalize the Gay-Straight Alliance in a school that has a history of not being entirely friendly to gay students. “Subconsciously, people are going to start associating GSA with the ridiculous political correctness at the school,” Quinn said.
A 15-year-old student named Amanda told Jonah: “No one even knew [Hutcherson] was against gays. I don’t want to sound bad, but the majority of students at our school are against gay rights.”
Kit McCormick, an English teacher at Mt. Si who also acts as an adviser for the Gay-Straight Alliance, told Jonah that there is a considerable amount of “anti-gay sentiment” in the school’s community.
“I’m astonished this person was brought to the school to talk about equality,” McCormick said of Hutcherson. She added: “This is totally going to help me teach irony in my English class.”
During Mt. Si’s annual “Day of Silence,” which is meant to remind students about the difficulty of life in the closet, posters about the day have been ripped down, there have been some isolated incidents of gay students being shoved, and some people have shouted in the hallways: “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”
After this morning’s assembly, about 50 kids gathered in McCormick’s class for a GSA meeting—many more than usually show up. A 17-year-old GSA member named Lindsey told Jonah she was happy that a disturbance was caused during Hutcherson’s presentation. “Is anyone going to listen to us if we write a nice letter to the principal?” she asked. “I’m willing to be the bad guy because he’s the bad guy.”
For her part, McCormick, the adviser, said she was not interested in Hutcherson’s suggestion that he come back to the school to explain his positions to gay students. “I don’t want to sit down and talk with people who want to oppress entire groups of people,” she said.
Dave Hildebrand, spokesman for the umbrella organization that oversees the entire network of Gay-Straight Alliances in Washington State, said he supports the stand McCormick and her students took.
“I can see why they reacted the way they did,” Hildebrand said. “They’re right. Hutcherson has been vehemently against equality for individuals regardless of their orientation or identity. To have him jump on that soap box, and then on the other side do have him go around denouncing people for who they are, is just hypocrisy.”