Event organizers hoped for a better showing at Hellgate High School’s Diversity Week following last year’s well-publicized protests, and at least one student noticed a change.
“I haven’t been called ‘emo fag’ all year,” says Dan Weimers, a 17-year-old senior who says he used to get called names almost every day.
Diversity Week, led by the school’s Flagship program and the National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI), includes mostly optional presentations covering everything from homelessness to homophobia. Last year featured students wearing T-shirts emblazoned with “Straight Pride” and “FTQ,” which stood for “fuck the queers,” according to students who wore them. But there were fewer disruptions this year, according to teachers and organizers, in part because of new school and district-wide changes.
For instance, Hellgate teachers formed a “Civility Committee” to reduce prejudice and prevent violence at school. Organizers also pre-empted disruptions by printing their own “Pride” T-shirts.
Last July, spurred by Respect Clubs from both Hellgate and Big Sky high schools, as well as NCBI, the school district added sexual orientation and gender identity to its harassment and bullying policies. However, when the Indy spoke with faculty and Hellgate Principal Jane Bennett, no one was aware of the district policy change.
Marianne Moon, director of Safe Schools, says the changes weren’t in the student handbook because they had been printed before a decision was reached. A copy of the faculty handbook also leaves out the entire harassment policy.
Despite the changes, some students remain unimpressed by Diversity Week.
Joeybill Weimer, 18, was one of the students sporting an anti-gay T-shirt last year.
“It kind of feels like they push a lot of stuff on you,” says Weimer. “It’s good in some ways, but it’s like they focus on three main groups: gays, blacks and Indians, and it’s not really diverse.”
Flagship coordinator Emily Brock remains hopeful that young minds can be open to the message of valuing all people, despite their differences.
“If you reach out to the kids who would want to wear the T-shirts, that makes a huge difference,” says Brock.