CHS Rises UP as a Strong Community


On Nov. 10, CHS stepped UP.

The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) came to CHS Nov. 10 to protest the CHS Gay-Straight Alliance club and our general acceptance of diversity. Though the general feelings of disapproval towards the WBC are widespread, it was clear through the student-created Facebook group “Rally to Support LGBT Students” that students were conflicted about how to react to this issue.

CHS’ response to this hate group offered teens the option to show solidarity instead of directly fighting these groups. We proved that positivity is stronger than its counterpart.

CHS students created a Facebook group that invited 2,000 students, and over 400 responded, “going to the event.” The Facebook group first became an outlet for individual CHS students to express their anger towards the issue. Students then planned to engage in an active counter-protest against WBC and encouraged other students to skip their eighth period class to participate.

In response, Benz left a phone message for CHS students: “There will be no counter protest and the event is not an excuse for missing school.” Students who skipped any class during the day for that purpose would lose their credit for the day.

According to Benz, the WBC came to CHS six or seven years ago but left after about 10 minutes when they were given no attention. She believed students should take this approach again.

However, though this may have sent the WBC away in the past, this couldn’t have been our sole purpose this time around. From elementary school we have learned that being the bystander is just as bad as being the bully. Standing by as the WBC spreads hate would not be giving the LGBT students the support they deserve.

According to Student Press Law Center executive director Frank LoMonte, students, protected by the First Amendment, can engage in “peaceful and non-disruptive speech,” like wearing protest attire, handing out flyers and expressing their opinions as long as it doesn’t interfere with the school’s ability to teach or students’ abilities to learn.

Administration turned Nov. 10 into Unity and Pride (UP) Day. CHS students proudly wore our school colors and/or rainbow themes. Throughout the day, peace-themed music rang through the halls, signs like “CHS Supports ALL Students” lined the hallways, and inspiring messages written on sticky notes covered the bathroom mirrors.

At 1:45 p.m., students from multiple schools in MCPS, parents, and religious leaders lined the sidewalks, held supportive signs and rainbow umbrellas to cover themselves in the light rain, and chanted.

As students filed out of CHS at the 2:30 bell, the drumline played celebratory beats to drown out the hatred. Some students joined a group holding signs and rainbow flags on the sidewalk while others filed onto their buses, yelling encouraging phrases out the window as they left.

There was slight confusion when people realized that the three WBC protestors who had showed up left before the school day ended. Even so, counter-protesters remained. The point is that they did so without causing chaos.

According to Principal Joan Benz, the school is responsible for students on their property during school hours, so if things were to turn violent, CHS is liable.

According to Vocativ, an online news and culture website, minority hate groups like WBC tend to feed off the groups they protest against. WBC has over $200,000 in yearly travel costs, and they are simply funded by lawsuits. When WBC claims that the group being protested against is violating their First Amendment right to protest, they immediately file a lawsuit.

But despite the marks stacking up against the WBC, the entire CHS community was not standing by our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students.

According to a poll of 100 students, 75 percent of the population supports our LGBT students, 17 percent is neutral on the issue and a stunning eight percent sides with Westboro Baptist Church and their sentiments.

In the poll, one student said that although “homosexuality is a sin” in his religion, he would stand with the LGBT community because his life is unaffected by their activities and he does not agree with the WBC’s actions.

It’s important to note that while a few may not support the idea of LGBT rights in general, we encourage this eight percent to stand with our LGBT students, as they are a part of the student body, just as any other student is.

The majority opinion may not be able to change the minds of those few, but our LGBT community is a part of CHS too, and therefore should be respected.

Props to CHS and Sources of Strength for proving that we are a school that welcomes every student. We handled this issue with civility and the utmost maturity with the goal in mind to let all of our students know they belong here. This sets the precedent for students so that they will know the appropriate approach to these issues that will surely come up in their future.