Westboro mistaken in high school policy

Brooke Lintag

On Oct. 16, just outside of San Diego High School, six Westboro Baptist Church members protested against the high school’s open acceptance of gay and lesbian students. But it seems that Westboro was misinformed.
The Westboro Baptist Church’s website pinpointed the local high school as one of its protest locations, stating, “Quit (T)elling (K)ids (I)t’s (OK) to be (F)ags.” However, it seems that the WBC was misinformed about what the school’s policies. According to Joe Austin, principal of the school of business at San Diego High, there isn’t really such a policy.

“I am not aware of any policy (site-specific or district) of an ‘acceptance of gay or lesbian relationships on campus’– I think it’s more of an anti-discrimination issue,” Austin said. “But I’d hope that students can count on a lack of discrimination, regardless of where they are enrolled.”

There are five small schools that create San Diego High: School of Arts, School of Business, School of Communications, School of LEADS, School of International Studies and the School of Science and Technology.

Anisha Dalal, principal of the school of communications, Kirk Ankeney, principal of the school of international studies and Dianne Cordero, principal of the school of science and technology could not be reached for comment.

Nevertheless, it is determined that there were about 500 gay rights supporters present at the protest.

“We were glad with the turnout because these people were not able to get their hate message across to the high schoolers,” FAGS President, Michael Mitchell, said. “The counter protest drowned them.”

News of the protest was made known weeks in advance, attempting to gather gay rights supporters.

San Diego Gay and Lesbian News released information on Oct. 3, bringing the planned protest to the community’s attention and addressing WBC’s reputation for “[protesting] against homosexuality, Judaism and Catholicism.” This protest was only one of 30 that WBC did throughout San Diego County that weekend.

San Diego High’s Gay Straight Alliance also made their voices heard, shouting alongside City’s FAGS group during the protest.
“I was very surprised that high school students joined,” Christine Klee, FAGS treasurer, said. “They were concerned.”

However, a number of students did not even know what the protest was about, reporting that they were never informed. While some said that they didn’t quite understand it.

“I didn’t know what was going on,” one San Diego High student said. “I just saw people over here and somebody was wearing heels.”

Many are not surprised that WBC would target a high school full of minors.

“If someone tells you you’re going to hell when you are a 16-year-old, then it’s harder to fight,” Klee said. “When you’re 21-years-old, it’s easier to say no.”

In retrospect, many find the protest to have had an overall positive outcome. Not only did they outnumber the WBC member, but there was also an educational aspect to it.

“I think our learning community (teachers, support staff, administrators, and all of the agencies that collaborated to help keep our kids safe) recognized the learning opportunity that it presented,” Austin said. “I’m glad that our teachers used this protest as a ‘teachable moment,’ and that our kids were involved in a peaceful counter-protest.”

“Love and equality were definitely the messages that were overwhelmingly spread that day,” Ben Cartwright, from San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, said. “The students of San Diego High School most likely did not even notice the WBC clan and were treated to an afternoon that celebrated diversity. It was a success.”