A Group of Pennsylvania High School Students Allegedly Organized an "Anti-Gay" Day


A group of students at McGuffey High School in Claysville, Pennsylvania, allegedly organized an "anti-gay day" on Thursday in which participants apparently wore flannel shirts, wrote "anti-gay" on their hands and posted Bible verses on the lockers of LGBT students. 

The "protest" occurred one day after another group of students staged the annual Day of Silence, a nationwide event designed to call out bullying faced by LGBT youth.

Zoe Johnson, a 16-year-old McGuffey student who also belongs to the school's Gay-Straight Alliance, told BuzzFeed that she was harassed by the students involved. "I got called a dyke, a faggot," she said in the interview. "They were calling us every horrible name you can think of." 

Zoe Johnson/Tumblr

According to WPXI, some students also expressed concerns for their safety. "It's sad to me. It's a high school. We should feel safe here. We don't, and it's starting to get worse," one student said.

On her Facebook page, Johnson noted that those participating also "pushed, shoved and verbally attacked fellow students who participated in 'Day Of Silence,' and hung 'Anti-Gay' posters all around the school." 

Zoe Johnson/Tumblr

In a separate Tumblr post, she elaborated further: 

"A boy started the idea to wear flannels to show 'anti-gay support,' and almost [100] students participated. How can we still live in a world this cruel and hateful? People, including myself, were pushed down, hit, had stuff thrown at them, shoved into lockers, called 'dykes,' 'faggots' and worse hateful words than that." 

Erica Kolat, the superintendent of McGuffey School District, sent WPXI the following statement on Friday: "McGuffey School District, along with school police officers, continue to investigate all allegations. We will follow our student code of conduct and file legal citations as warranted. We resolve to ensure that all children can grow and learn in a safe, supportive environment free from discrimination." 

In an updated statement emailed to Mic on Monday, Kolat reiterated the school's investigation of the incident. "Administration and school police officers have been investigating all allegations and continue to do so," the statement reads. "At this time, no witnesses have seen the rumored 'lynch list' that was mentioned in previous news reports. Additionally, no statements have included physical harassment." 

According to BuzzFeed, Johnson and a handful of other students attended a school board meeting on Thursday night to express their concerns. "We had a really positive reaction," she told BuzzFeed. "Both the superintendent and assistant superintendent shook my hand. It was very positive. You could tell whose side they were truly on."

As Sue Kerr, the editor-in-chief of Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents, pointed out in a blog post, Claysville is part of Washington County, Pennsylvania, an area that has had its fair share of anti-gay controversy. 

In 2013, Councilman Matt Staniszewski came under fire for sending out an email testing a citywide alert system that included the phrase "Bryan is gay." Mayor Brenda Davis called the email inappropriate, adding, "It's not very professional to do business like this. Coming from the city of Washington, it does not look good for us."

Kerr argued that it was vital for LGBT students to feel supported by both educators and the community at large. "It is critical that educators and administrators support youth who are being targeted, but it is also important that the community rally behind them as well," she writes.

However, it's currently unclear what steps, if any, the school has taken to discipline those involved in the "anti-gay day." According to WPIX, the students involved in Thursday's incident "allegedly have another five days' worth of 'anti-gay' attire planned next week." 

On Saturday, Johnson noted on her Facebook page that students supportive of the school's LGBT community should wear tie-dye on Monday. "Fight fire with fire," she wrote on her personal Facebook.

It may be 2015, but that evidently doesn't preclude a group of teenagers from taking out their homophobic views on the rest of their school community. As Kerr writes, "These kids didn't just spontaneously pull a homophobic move. They have a plan."