Schools must prioritize tolerance and respect

Lauri Hoedl, Opinion Editor

Tolerance, support and inclusion are all necessary to create a positive school environment. Olathe South celebrated Ally Week, Oct. 9-13, by many activities, such as putting Post-It notes on lockers with positive phrases about being wanted and loved, but such tolerance has not been true recently for Olathe Northwest.

On Sept. 21, Olathe Northwest had their annual Homecoming parade, but this year, the outcome was not like the rest.

Northwest’s Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) club decided to march in the parade. Instead of being cheered, the GSA was harassed.

Students shouted “Make Olathe Northwest straight again,” yelled slurs, threw candy and told them to kill themselves.

Although teachers were supervising the parade, students said that not one intervened to stop the harassment.

The parade fell on their U.S.A. spirit day, which may have increased the political tensions and divide because of the 2016 election.

Not only were the students heckled at school, the bullying continued online. Students took to Snapchat to continue the hate.

The GSA club’s Twitter responded to the event by tweeting “We are not afraid. We will continue to fight. No matter what you throw at us. We are here. We don’t want special treatment, we want to be treated like people.”

In response to the event, the community rallied to support LGBTQ students the following Tuesday. Around 150 LGBTQ allies held signs, flags, wore rainbow colors, and showed their support, all while being rained on.

Although to many the visible response from the community was positive, the response from the administration and district was unacceptable.

Following the event, Chris Zuck, Olathe Northwest principal, sent out an announcement to both students and staff. The words “Gender-Sexuality Alliance” and “LGBTQ” were not mentioned once.

Instead, the email said they had “some of our own students targeting one of our groups marching in the parade” and “every student deserves to feel comfortable and safe.”

The letter was unacceptable and extremely vague. It did not say the group’s name. It did not specify the anti-LGBTQ hate. It instead created an “all-lives matter” feel, although the situation that took place targeted a specific group.

This type of hate should not be tolerated in our schools. Schools should be a safe place, in which all students feel protected.

For example, Olathe North has been very successful with inclusion and diversity. Their GSA has participated in many school events with positive reactions. On Oct. 11, Olathe North hosted a GSA Showcase, where they educated the community about their GSA.

What happened to ONW’s GSA should never occur. The hate speech and harassment during the event, and the response from the school were both unacceptable.

It is important for all schools to create a safe space where all students feel supported.