Clubs Try to Teach Tolerance

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BASH is awarded a No Place for Hate award for the 11th year in a row.

A lot is going on at BASH to try to make it a more open, accepting environment.

The Diversity and PRIDE clubs, in particular, tried a number of initiatives this year – everything from hosting speakers to encouraging students to be more sensitive about what they say to one another.

The Diversity Club’s efforts led to the school earning a “No Place for Hate” banner for the 11th one in a row.

“Every year we have to participate in certain activities to get it and be a No Place for Hate school,” said Mr. Phil Specht, Special Education English teacher, who runs the Diversity Club with Gifted Program Teacher Mrs. Sue Burdick.  

This year’s activities included the visit from Holocaust survivor Dr. Joseph Hirt and participation in the Anti-Defamation League’s Youth Leadership Conference.

The conference, which took place in October, focused on the themes of discrimination and diversity, and never being a bystander in the presence of hate. Former members of the Westboro Baptist Church, Megan and Grace Phelps, were the keynote speakers.

Attendees could also participate in an essay contest, the topic being how the conference inspired them. BASH sophomore Kelsey Miller won and was present at the presentation of the new banner.

The PRIDE Club — which consists of students from across the spectrum of sexual orientation and gender identity — has also done a lot to encourage a more tolerant school environment.

Formerly known as the Gay Straight Alliance, the club now goes by the name PRIDE, or People Respecting Individual Differences Everywhere. According to club adviser Mrs. Shive, “GSA kind of has a negative connotation. We wanted to broaden it up and let people know we accept everyone. PRIDE does that because of what it stands for.”

The group meets weekly to discuss LGBT issues and forms a support network for some of the people in it.

“Some of the people in it aren’t out yet, so it kind of gives them people to talk to,” Senior Holly Nemic said.

Consequently, PRIDE also discusses current affairs; among the important issues are:

-the numerous anti-trans bills being pushed forward in state legislatures: Most of them intend on barring trans students from using facilities like locker and bathrooms which are not designated for their birth gender.

-‘religious freedom’ cases where people have refused same sex couples services, proving full equality has not been achieved.

But they don’t limit themselves to discussion. Recently, students in the club e-mailed a survey to faculty and staff inquiring about the prevalence of homophobic slurs used throughout the school day. They also gave a presentation at a faculty meeting to encourage teachers to proactively stop discriminatory slurs if they hear them.

As future plans go, PRIDE is also planning on a creating a wall near the nurse’s office.

“It’s going to be like the SADD wall kind of, but it’ll list  resources and contact information for students who might have issues or questions,”Mrs. Shive says.

Despite PRIDE and the Diversity Club’s efforts, some problems still exist. Some students are skeptical about “No Place for Hate”.  

“It doesn’t do anything,Senior John Harris said.

Mr. Specht understands there are still frustrations and misperceptions, but feels the school environment is improving.

“I think kids are better than they used to be,” he said. “I don’t have to correct them very much for calling things ‘gay’. There are still exceptions, but they’re easier to pick out.”

According to Mr. Specht, part of the problem is how insular Boyertown is  — but he feels technology is helping people connect.

“The only danger with that is everyone has an equal voice. So some pretty reprehensible people can have a big audience.

But we’re trying to make people have more empathy and tolerance.

What we’re promoting is the opposite of hate, I guess love. Maybe we should change our name. A  Place for Love.”

 

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