Students, parents rally against 'hate' group Schools & Kids, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Jan 29, 2010 at 10:27 am
More than 250 people gathered at the southeast corner of the Gunn High School campus in Palo Alto this morning in opposition to five demonstrators from the Westboro Baptist Church -- a controversial religious organization and picketing group from Topeka, Kansas -- who were conducting a protest across from the school on Arastradero Road.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, January 29, 2010, 9:58 AM
Posted by j, a resident of Menlo Park, on Jan 29, 2010 at 10:48 am
Although we all disagree with this, there should have been no counter protest. They should have ignored the protesters. On the other thread regarding this, someone mentions how at one location where this disgusting exhibition was scheduled to happen, no attention was given and so they called it off. Do not fuel these hate-mongers.
Posted by Chris, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 10:50 am
It's really great seeing the Gunn community rally over such a good cause. The Westboro Baptist Church has been spreading hate for decades, and the only way to fight hate like this is through love and togetherness. For a community that is so reeling, it is nice to see a positive message of love and acceptance being emitted from such young members of the Palo Alto community. Way to go Gunn, Palo Alto is proud of you.
Posted by EcoMama, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 11:07 am
No matter how "uplifting" the counter-demonstrations were, it saddens me that people showed up at Gunn to protest after the administration very clearly asked them to stay away. Now the Phelps group got the reaction and the media attention for which them came; the counter-demonstration helped their cause. I figured there'd be a few kid who wouldn't listen, but parents and staff? How sad.
Posted by Marvin, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 11:17 am
"it saddens me that people showed up at Gunn to protest after the administration very clearly asked them to stay away."
It saddens me that you have no respect for freedom of speech. As long as these counter demonstrators were not on school property, they had the right to be there to show these hate-mongers that they would not go unanswered. The administration can ask all they want, but as educators they should take an elemental civics lesson.
I applaud the parents, staff and students that stoo dup to protest the presence of these Kansas vermin
Posted by Disappointed, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 29, 2010 at 11:27 am
It is really very disappointing that the school community (parents and staff specially) did not follow the good advise of the school district office and still went ahead to provide the attention this hate group was seeking.
This is not a good example of a community coming together. The mixed messages from the Gunn school administration, exemplified by Ms Likins going on record calling the counter-protest "uplifting", is one of the reasons they have been so ineffective at tackling some of the real issues the student population at Gunn is facing.
Posted by robit noops, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 11:35 am
I agree. 5 people were able to agitate 250 people into taking the time to make signs and counter protest. mission accomplished. The better thing to do would have been to ignore them, then they would have looked like 5 idiots standing on the sidewalk.
Also, it shows that people don't listen, since Gunn administration had stated they did not want anyone to counter-protest. It has nothing to do with freedom of speech, it has to do with a strategy for diffusing a group of people who's campaign is designed to illicit a response.
Posted by Bob, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 11:40 am
You are spot-on in one sense: there was a freedom of speech lesson. But there was also a bigger lesson: sometimes a fire just burns itself out of there's no one to put fuel on it . . .
Think about it: they showed up with 5(!) people and got all this reaction (and press!) How emboldening for them? Did any of their minds get changed? No. They instead showed every looney out there how to get attention. Shame on us for being so easily manipulated.
Posted by Andy, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 11:41 am
My stepson attends Gunn and while I partly agree with the decision of the Gunn administration to ask counter-protesters to stay away, I'm reminded that adversity also can bring people together.
Think back to the days not that long ago when straight people, even if they were not comfortable with anti-gay rhetoric, were also uncomfortable with publicly standing up for gay rights. It's not such a bad thing that hatemongers were outnumbered 50:1, despite the school's requests to the contrary.
I would request that posters stop bringing up Kansas. This tiny group is no more representative of that state than any number of the nutcases that every state has.
Posted by graduate, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 29, 2010 at 11:44 am
Ignoring the protesters was a great idea, and would have been a success, if everyone had been on the same page. HOWEVER... the articles I have read this morning make me feel so proud for the staff, parents and ALL the students and surrounding communities that stood up for their beliefs. The students did EXACTLY as they should- they countered the attacks and vicious words by standing together and demonstrating unity. There has been much suffering, does it help to stay quiet? No! Staying quiet would have only internalized the anger. Anyways, there's only so much adults can do and say to keep students safe. But guess what? Adults are, on occasion, WRONG. Way to go Gunn!!
Posted by Marvin, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 11:48 am
"since Gunn administration had stated they did not want anyone to counter-protest. It has nothing to do with freedom of speech"
Gunn administration can state until they are blue in the face--people have the right congregate and protest. It has everything to do with freedom of speech. These WBC loonies are allowed to demonstrate and so is a group in opposition. Democracy in action--a perfect civics lesson for Gunn students.
"Shame on us for being so easily manipulated."
No, Bob, shame on you for letting yourself be manipulated by the WBC crazies. ANdy makes a good point above. Everyone is free to decide whether to counter-protest or not. Had no one shown up the WBC crazies would have said that people in PA agree with them by not saying anything to the contrary.
Gunn admin made suggestions, people had the right to ignore them.
Posted by Gunn parent, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 29, 2010 at 12:13 pm
I'm stoked that ONLY 250 were there. And many of them were not from Gunn. There were estimates that over 1900 would attend so many kids did listen to the staff or chose wisely for themselves. I too am proud of Gunn students. And I don't think many people could go and NOT get fired up by their hateful signs and remarks. They hurt.
And freedom of speech and freedom to protest is America. So those that went to stand up for their beliefs, I'm proud of them too.
I'm really just glad it didn't turn violent and that everyone was safe. And just about now our Gunn students are celebrating a fun luncheon at school. So there could be a very good side to this.
Posted by Gunn Parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 12:26 pm
I am proud of the Gunn community for standing up for love today! They didn't follow the administrators' advice, but they pulled it off without getting violent. Our community needed to speak up!!! It is the ones who don't speak up, who get depressed. Taking action and having a voice empowered our community and helped us all heal a little more.
I'm glad teachers, parents, and some administrator's supported the students. Sometimes you have to be flexible with ideas and decisions. If we all thought in black and white terms, we might be as narrow-minded as the Phelps people. Standing together against hate today created more good will than any hate that WBC might promote. Be proud that you have smart, loving, sensible kids who kept their cool today while a hateful group tried to spark a fire.
Posted by robit noops, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 12:33 pm
Marvin, you seem very opinionated.
Im sure that Gunn did not have suppressing freedom of speech on their mind, they wanted to diffuse a group that used tactics to illicit a response. What kind of a whacko group stages a hate protest to minors? Best thing to do would be ignore them. Instead, I now see a picture of high school student arguing with protesters and students from other schools that ditched classes.
Personally, its done they are gone, I don't really care to occupy my mind with them. Everyone have a great weekend and be thankful that you have an open mind. God loves you.
Posted by Bob, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 12:42 pm
"Had no one shown up the WBC crazies would have said that people in PA agree with them by not saying anything to the contrary."
Hey, Marvin: in case you hadn't noticed, the WBC crazies say a lot of things that have no basis in fact - and my guess is that not a whole lot of people are listening!
But, we do agree on this: free speech rocks. And in my day, I did a lot of protesting and counter-protesting. Our first SMASH protest (Students Mobilized Against Saddam Hussein) drew 10x the number of counterprotestors, guaranteeing us a spot on the front page of the Crimson. Noting did us more good (from a fundraising or membership standpoint) than the counterprotest!
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 12:47 pm
The principal, had told everyone to stay away and even delayed the start of school. Now she calls them brave and says she's proud of them! This sounds like a principal with bad principles if she calls those who disobeyed her instructions brave.
I saw some kids from Los Altos interviewed on tv and it looks like many of those present were from other schools. I imagine that to some it has just been a lame reason to get out of school - by giving these very few protestors a reason for the media to report they event, they have won this round!
Posted by Harry Stangel, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 1:13 pm
I'm a proud parent of one of today's counter-protesting students. It would not have been proper for the administration to organize the counter-protest, it needed to be grass roots. Thanks to the administration for delaying class to allow my daughter to express herself, and doing nothing to stop it.
Any publicity garnered by the WBC will only be negative, so the more the better.
But by far the best thing that happened today was that all those who spoke their mind for tolerance and love will be forever changed by their experience. They will feel part of something larger than themselves. They will be a little more likely to show up, speak out, try to effect change for the betterment of society.
Posted by Amy, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 1:20 pm
Way to go, Gunn students! And for those who think a counter-protest was ineffective, or would like to do more, go to Web Link. I made a donation per minute that the Phelps clan was out there, and the WBC will get a card letting them know how much money they raised for the Gunn Gay/Straight Alliance. You can still be a part of this creative response.
Posted by JustMe, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 1:44 pm
I agree that this entire event should have been ignored. They might have freedom of speech, but we have the freedom to not listen. They came here looking for a reaction, we gave them one, so they were rewarded. That's how we make sure they will come back again another time. The best reaction would have been no reaction.
Posted by Marvin, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 1:52 pm
Sharon--sounds, from your post above, like this is just what you wanted, so that you could spring into action and try to justify the WBC actions.
So far there is no proof that the counter protesters did any damage. What we have is someone from Hillel saying what the police may have said--we do not have any quotes from the police yet, so do not get so excited. As I wrote on the other thread, this smells fishy. I think WBC did it themselves--why else turn down a Stanford offer for reserved parking and security.
Regarding some of your other comments:
"The PAUSD asked for no counter protests in part because they understand that such events attract outside agitators who have their own agendas that have nothing to do with Gunn students best interests."
First of all this was a free speech issue. People can come and counter demonstrate if they wanted. Do you have any proof that "outside agitators" were present? Funny, how you do not consider the WBC people to be "outside agitators".
"In fact such people will use our kids to further their agendas which often involve confrontation, violence and destruction of property."
Which people are you referring to? You have been quick to try to smear the reputations of people, not only in this thread, but throughout the PA Online Forum with your innuendo and unsubstantiated claims.
"The PAUSD advice was sound and should have been followed."
And people should be allowed to exercise their first amendment rights
"If everyone had stayed away then the TV would have had nothing to report and our kids would not have put at risk. "
The WBC people would have still been there and the reporters wouls have still reported. Instead we got a teachable moment, that was used to speak out against hatred and bigotry. I am surprised you do not think the same way.
Rabbit noops--why do you take Sharon's bait. Read the link carefully, there is no proof of who slashed the tires. You are a bit quick to believe the WBC (and Sharon) in this case, yet you seem to disapprove of their message.
As I stated before, the PAUSD can request until they are blue in the face--as long as the demonstrators were on public property they had every right to be there. It was a great time for Gunn students and others to demonstrate tolerance. Something missing from some posters (not yourself) who love to speak out of both sides of their mouths.
Posted by janisw, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 2:03 pm
I'm so glad to see that the majority of the photos (5 of 6) posted with this article are POSITIVE images of the Gunn students & supporters. Shame on such small-minded hatemongers who feel somehow threatened by love felt by anyone for another human being. I pity them.
Posted by robit noops, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 2:06 pm
"Nina Grotch said the Anti-Defamation League encourages people to not engage with the church members, because "they're just there to provoke.""
Marvin, your opinion is your own, don't tell me who's bait I am taking or what I need to read more carefully. My opinion is that the Anti-Defamation League has more experience in this situation, and it was right of PAUSD to adopt the same stance. I have protested many issues, but I have never been baited by a quack outfit like WBC. They have no issue or ground to stand on.
By the way, my father in law is Jewish, my brother is gay, and I served in the Gulf War. I find WBC laughable and of no threat unless people give them service.
Posted by Marvin, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 2:15 pm
Robit noops--and your opinion is your own. This is a forum where we can express each other's opinions. I am not sure what you are getting so uptight about.
the ADL and the PAUSD have the right to express their opinions. And the people who counter protested have the right to express theirs. I thin k you will find that the overall feeling about the counter protest at Gunn was very positive.
I agree that the WBC is a quack outfit and laughable and they have no issue or ground to stand on. however everyone is free to decide how to deal with their vile protests and as long as it is done on public property in a peaceful manner, there should be no problem with it-- we may not agree with counter protesting, but that is okay with me.
you should peruse this forum for examples of Sharon's postings and you will understand my comments re "taking the bait".
BTW, I am Jewish, gay and have served in the military
Posted by robit noops, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 2:32 pm
Good for you Marvin, glad that you are also diverse, and service oriented. I am not being uptight, I am expressing my opinion.
I agree with counter protesting, however I think involving minors was a bait tactic. You can say tomato, Ill say tomato. I think their is an appropriate time and place, I think that high schools or funerals are not appropriate.
Posted by Marvin, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 2:35 pm
Robit noops--well we cannot agree on everything!!! Agree that high schools and funerals are inappropriate--though these WBC people have no shame or scruples--but once they made their aim clear--people will have their own opinions on what should be done in response.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 2:35 pm
Given the reason that Phelps' group decided to target Gunn--because of the suicides--I don't think it's that bad a thing that some Gunn folk took action. I think it's better for the mental health of the Gunn community, frankly, to feel that they can speak up and visibly counter a group that seeks to take advantage of them.
It's a way of just saying No.
Should Phelps and co. have been ignored? Maybe--but the fact is that they should have been ignored days ago. Instead, we got all sorts of reports that the bigots were coming, the bigots were coming.
So a peaceful, larger assembly stood up for the high school against the haters. Good for them.
Posted by Susan Thomas, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 29, 2010 at 2:53 pm
I am so incredibly proud of our Gunn students and our community. And to those who think we should just ignore hate groups like the WBC, I encourage you to re-read history. There are too many examples of people's rights -- or their lives -- being taken away when people are silent.
Posted by Happy mom, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 29, 2010 at 3:12 pm
Gunn has 1000+ students. Only some subset of 250 were Gunn students. Seems to me we should be delighted that so many of them did decide to IGNORE them. Everyone is focusing on the 250 (many not Gunn) instead of 700+ kids that did not play into their hands.
And I liked that the Gunn staff posted what they thought was an appropriate and safe approach to this demonstration. I'm sure that Gunn staff know they can't mandate such a dismissal of protesting only suggest.
And keeping the protest small keeps it more manageable for the police and the safety of our children. I don't think the WBC won on this one. I'm proud of Gunn students and proud of the way Gunn handled this issue. Kudos to everyone.
Posted by Ima Pseudonym, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 29, 2010 at 3:39 pm
I am a student at gunn hs, and today was amazing. I have never seen the student population so unified and supportive. At lunch we had a celebration on the quad with the entire school; a celebration of our diversity and love for one another. It was beautiful. The WBC came here to hurt and provoke us - to insult the very fabric of our society. What they did was give us the opportunity to realize just how lucky we are to live in such a diverse, accepting, and supportive community. Thank you to all the students, teachers and admins who turned today's horrible circumstances into something positive and uplifting.
Posted by gogunn, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 29, 2010 at 4:08 pm
From Parent/Duvenck who said "I am disappointed that these protesters were able to deprive our students of nearly an hour of classes. Perhaps it would have been better not to postpone the start of school."
The Gunn students were "deprived" of 35 minutes of class that were divided among their schedule today. I do not think that that will change the course of their life. What it gave them is a lesson that is harder to teach in the classroom and that is freedom of speech. This was a teachable moment and the Gunn students rose to the occasion. It was great to see staff and students together supporting each other. Most of the students seemed to be Juniors and Seniors and they are certainly old enough to hear what others say and form their own opinion. It is better for them to have experiences like these when they can go home and talk to their parents about the event. High students are older and more responsible than some of you are giving them credit for and maybe it is time to realize that they are growing up and let them make some decisions on their own.
The Gunn adminstration did an excellent job in discouraging the entire school in participating and they did an excellent job in supporting the student that chose to use their right to speak. Thank you to the Gunn staff for all that you do to support our students.
Posted by Midtown parent, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 29, 2010 at 4:16 pm
Actually, Administration (Noreen L. said the best thing is to ignore), but here we are selling shirts you can use in case you decide to protest. Students were told they could protest if they feel like it. They gave them the choice. Read the letter they sent do the community and you will see what I meant. I wish they could had just said ignore, then if the students decide to do it, it was another story. School claims that they need to learn about history and their right to protest. Students could protest about something that brings benefit. Like going to the district and demand that they lower the stress level. Going to the city and demand that they speed up the process of lightning Alma, along the track. Phelps did not deserve any attention from anyone. Sorry but he won this time.
Posted by Wynn, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 4:22 pm
I was proud to be a member of the Gunn community today. A wise balance was struck. The student protest was big enough but not too big. The teachers and administration handled the issue with sensitivity.
I took my son not knowing if I would stay. But I did, along with small number of parents who were there to support the kids, teachers and administration. The WBC lot was really a small, pathetic-looking group, who slithered away when the time came to chants of Naa naa naa na. Hey hey, hey, Goodbye!
There was no better place for learning important life lessons this week than at Gunn.
Posted by Lisa Jack, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 4:29 pm
If today's protest and counter protest taught the kids something about social movements and brought the Gunn community closer together, then I think it is probably worth missing some class and potentially giving the WBC some (negative) publicity. I love the post above from the Gunn student who was so excited about the day. Let's hope all the Gunn students feel so energized.
Posted by gunn kid, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 29, 2010 at 4:30 pm
Clearly nobody here is from gunn, because the students that did show up this morning had very clear permission to be there. The administration told the general public and students not to come in case people acted out, but for those who did come, they had clear permission and I think it was very successful
Posted by proud gunn student, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 4:45 pm
I am so proud of my school. Whether we protested or stayed at home, we took a stand against hate. People who are saying that Phelps won obviously don't know what they are saying because they weren't there and they just don't understand. The whole thing inspired so many students and showed them that our school is accepting and diverse. It was the most peaceful protest there could have been. We had people singing and spreading the love. Gunn gives me hope thank you :)
Posted by another happy student, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 29, 2010 at 4:56 pm
So happy about today. The unity of my fellow students made it my best day at school. I learned so much from the protest/counter-protest, the love my school has for diversity, the teachers and administrators caring about us. GREAT DAY!!!!
Posted by Hillary Stangel, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 5:06 pm
Evil triumphs when the good in the world do nothing.
Please, let us not debate whether or not this tactic agrees with you or not. The love was genuinely palpable and ended up breeding more understanding and love in our community. I do not see what anyone can find to argue with that happy ending.
Posted by Nayeli, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 5:21 pm
I am happy that people take a stand against hate. However, the Phelps and his followers at WBC actually think that they are doing something important. By paying attention to them, they feel empowered by their attempts.
Now, I am a Hispanic woman. As a former migrant worker, I remember being called names due to my ethnicity and economic condition. Instead of standing up to those individuals who did this, I simply ignored their hate. In fact, I also treated them well. I completely disagreed with their views. However, I think that this was much more effective than any sort of public trade of viewpoints.
If the nation would simply ignore Fred Phelps, then cameras and members of the news media wouldn't show up. Eventually, I think that he just wouldn't attract a crowd to begin. No crowds = No attention to his views.
Of course, I think that there are other ways to take stands against radical extremists on the left or right. Ignoring them is a great way to start!
Posted by Gunn Graduate, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 29, 2010 at 5:57 pm
It wasn't so much for the WBC That all the students came out, but for themselves. The Gunn community needed this after all the recent tragedies. They needed to come together over some external force and show how much they really do support each other. While yes, it would have been better in many ways to have completely ignored the protesters, in this instance I feel it was appropriate for the community to come together. And as for the mixed messages sent from the administration, I'm sure that they knew this as well. They must have been anxious about hot-blooded students assaulting the WBC, allowing them to sue the city and school, but were relieved and yes PROUD that the students proved they were more mature than to physically attack. I'm sure Likens and everyone else in charge did want to be right next to the students, fighting off the harmful remarks, but knew they had an obligation to keep the students and school safe. As for those who blame the school for the recent suicides, you are horribly stupid. The school has done everything they can to stop these deaths, but when someone is dedicated enough there really is nothing they can do. Life is far more stressful then life at Gunn, and I can personally attest to how difficult that school can be -- I graduated last year. The school has come together once again in a show of love and strength in the face of adversary. So what if it wasn't exactly the wisest of choices? Now they know that they can stand up to hate in a safe way and be part of a healthy, loving community.
Posted by another proud student, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 6:25 pm
i agree with proud gunn student. but i'm slightly upset that after everything that gunn has gone through random people who were not there and don't understand are saying that they are "disappointed." i didn't go counter protest but i drove by if anything, gunn's side was not even a protest, it was community members coming together and uniting against hate. ms. likins and the admin did a great job, they gave us the choice of free speech. it was truly inspiring to see everyone come together and it made us all closer. its safe to say that today, it was gunn 1 WBC 0.
Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto, on Jan 29, 2010 at 6:35 pm
It may have been more effective to ignore the protestors but have a rally on the school grounds - a rally including parents and people from different schools. That way, all the good would've been epxerienced w/out fueling the ignorant hatemongers. Gunn realyl does need to have some good stuff going on as a community. Perhaps a rally would've been a good solution. My thoughts are still w/the families and friends who've lost loved ones from Gunn.
Posted by Hillary Stangel, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 6:49 pm
Sharon - -
None of us attacked the protest on the opposite side of the street. We gave them our reaction - - that we were not willing to stand for such hatred in our world. I would not be so ignorant and jump to the conclusion that this peaceful gathering was a mistake.
I think you should check your facts first. The vandalism was done on Stanford campus. Those that rallied at Gunn may have traveled to Stanford campus, but it is quite unlikely that they vandalized the WBC's van, considering that there were about 400 to 500 college students at the other rally.
Posted by Love is Love, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 29, 2010 at 7:34 pm
In regards to those of you who have expressed disappointment that students (and parents and staff) did not listen to Ms. Likin's request of not having any sort of counter protest, it should be known that she knew of and supported the Gunn GSA's intentions of having a small response. The mass announcement was made to prevent it from escalating to an unmanageable size. I personally was elated to see how much this moron contributed to bringing the students closer yet again. It just goes to show his plan backfires in the face of love.
Posted by Atty, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 29, 2010 at 7:48 pm
As a student who attended the protest, I have to disagree with the majority of posts above.
First, lets get one thing straight. The WBC members are mostly also lawyers. They thrive on hate. They get there money by provoking people into doing something they can press charges for. How else?
Now, the reason that the Gunn administration was pushing students not to counter-protest was purely for liability reasons. They say something vulgar and offensive enough about a sensitive topic (which, here at Gunn, are plenty due to recent events), a single student gets enraged, acts without thinking and throws a rock. Then, the WBC can sue the district. The administration wasn't trying to keep us from exercising freedom of speech.
I'm greatly proud of all the students, teachers, parents and everyone else who attended. Out of this, Gunn got more publicity as a tolerant, loving place than the WBC did as a hate group. They would get publicity anyway, however. I think it's beautiful that so many people could come together on something like this. I couldn't even hear them over the singing.
Sure, they got a reaction. But the reaction they got wasn't anger or violence as they wanted, it was a screaming message of love and tolerance.
Posted by Madison Sevilla, a member of the Palo Alto High School community, on Jan 29, 2010 at 8:02 pm
As if the Gunn students and community have not had enough to deal with this past year lets add demonstrators from a Kansas town to shout things about being anti-gay and anti-jewish... what is wrong with these people
Posted by localmom, a resident of Mountain View, on Jan 29, 2010 at 10:25 pm
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] I went to high school in the 1980s and it was a positive experience. There were very few AP classes available. There were very few honors classes. My homework was less than an hour/night. I had lots of friends and weekends free. Can we re-org the high schools to get our priorities straight so our kids are getting sleep, have friends, don't have too much work/stress, and are learning? I am now a parent (and physician) and I am very worried that the Silicon Valley educational experience adds to mental health stressors for kids. Can anyone offer some concrete insights, and perhaps solutions, such as getting rid of AP requirements, cutting homework, shortening the school day, and so on?? Is it all too much for teenagers? They are just bigger kids after all! Life should be about joy and balance, school is only one piece of the equation. Please let me know what is out of kilter so I can help my kids in the future when the hit the high school years!!
Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 10:58 pm
Much was achieved this morning. Students, teachers, Gunn staff members, parents, and other members of our community came together to show their solidarity and support for a school that has gone through so much pain in the last few months. What a wonderful experience for these students and staff members! There is always a silver lining to any dark cloud, and it was evident this morning!
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 11:05 pm
Go back and read some of the threads after the suicides. I think that will give you some insight into possible issues at Gunn. That said, each tragedy had its individual circumstances--most of which were not made public.
Jim Jones has *what* to do with any of this? You are reaching, big time.
And since I was around during that tragedy--please keep in mind that Jones' people *murdered* a congressman, Leo Ryan, who was investigating complaints about the cult, while Jackie Speier, who's had a long successful political career down here, was shot.
And your father apparently doesn't remember Jonestown well enough to realize that he's remembering the wrong decade. The massacre was in 1978--Jones was pretty much driven out of the Bay Area due to bad press and the IRS.
Posted by Andrew, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Jan 29, 2010 at 11:13 pm
Although I will be the first to say that what Fred Phelps and the WBC believe and say is off base and un-Christian, it must be noted that this incident cannot be generalized and applied to all Christians. I do not agree with anything that the WBC says. The WBC is an OFF-BASE group that uses the label of Christianity to spread un-Christian ideals. I write this response because I felt that the response was sorely mishandled and brought up some very interesting points. Furthermore, I wrote this to try to spread the true love of Jesus Christ, as the portrayal on Arastredero this morning was terribly inaccurate. I once heard a preacher say that "you should not fear God, because he loves all his children unconditionally. Rather, you should fear misrepresenting Him to others as that is not what He stands for." Misrepresentation of God, Jesus, the church, and Christianity was exactly what happened this morning. Please, as an open-minded Palo Altan, take the following words in stride and with a grain of salt and think on them. If you believe, pray on them. These sorts of extreme ideological clashes will be our undoing someday.
Second, it is questionable that Gunn teachers were allowed to participate in this protest. Although they are totally entitled to their own viewpoints, one must remember the idea of Separation of Church and State. I would bet really good money that the vast majority of all the teachers who attended the rally this morning preach the value and importance of the separation of church and state. Is it not ironic then, that teachers showed up at this protest to express their disapproval (at the very least) for the church and probably Christianity in general? By expressing these sentiments, the teachers who protested have gone beyond separating the church from their classrooms. They have degraded the church and probably created a classroom environment that is uncomfortable for those who do believe. It may have been that the teachers were simply protesting the ideologies and not the church, but one can never know.
Third, I'd like to say that although what the WBC says is un-Christian, they are still a church and not a "church." (First line second paragraph). It would be like saying that the PA Weekly was just a "newspaper" and not a legitimate newspaper. You are a newspaper and I doubt you would appreciate it if I called you a "newspaper." These folks from the WBC, however off-base they are, believe in what they believe, they congregate, and they are certainly a church. From the PA Weekly I have always expected non-biased, professional reporting. Mr. Sanchez, between friends in a private converstaion it is perfectly fine to put the word church in quotes, as it is your personal opinion. But Mr. Sanchez, I really don't care what you think, because it's up to the reader to decide that for himself. So please, next time anyone on your staff is inclined to inject their personal sentiments into a story, remember that you are a professional writing for the best newspaper in a small town so you must maintain objectivism. Thank you.
Fourth, may I point out that Principal Likins said early this week that she did not want any Gunn students or teachers to participate in any counter protest of any sort. However, she oddly declared this morning, "It's really uplifting to see the huge outpouring of support for each other ... I'm very proud." This puts her in the same boat as her faculty.
Fifth, I'd like to point out how hypocritical Palo Altans can be. We like to think of ourselves as an open minded people, but today's incident underlines just how narrow minded we can be. If being open minded entails acknowledging the possibility, even if it is slim, that an ideology foreign to our own might have just a speck of truth in it, then what was on display from the Gunn community this morning was not open mindedness.
Lastly, I'd like to say again that I do not beleive in anything the WBC says or does. Rather, I believe that Jesus Christ was the only Son of God and that it is our commission to spread His word. But what Phelps supported today in front of Gunn was not His word, so I worte this to try to set the record straight.
If you've read this far, thank you for your attention.
Posted by gunn student, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 30, 2010 at 12:07 am
everybody who has been commenting on this article, saying it was "sad" of us to hold a counter-protest, needs to step back for a second. most of you people can't even imagine what my school has gone through. we students did exactly what we needed to do. we've gained more unity than you can believe through these painful events and we aren't going to let any intolerant and ignorant people come and try to tear us down. ignoring would have been effective in making them go away, yes. but we wanted them to see us there. we wanted them to see us all together and showing that hatred and ignorance is the last thing we tolerate at our school. it may not have had an effect on them and their ideals, but it helped us feel strong. and that's what matters. we did exactly the right thing. so stop talking badly about my school, the students, and my principal. i love my school, our strength, and there is no place else i'd rather get an education.
Posted by eric, a resident of Mountain View, on Jan 30, 2010 at 1:01 am
With due respect to the very reasonable arguements of the no-counter protest crowd, I am torn. This level of idiocy MUST be opposed, not ignored. I think that the ideal counter-protest would have involved a lot of humor. Mockery, not anger, because there is no group on the face of this nation that I can think of that deserves more to be mocked.
I'm torn because I think that no community would have the proper discipline to avoid the very understandable anger and vitriol that would bubble to the surface against these jackasses. I'd be hard pressed not to swear and throw punches at these idiots.
Posted by J, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 30, 2010 at 1:36 am
Well-put, gunn student. There is so much strength, love, and unity at our school. Today we witnessed how love triumphs over hatred, and it reaffirmed all the reasons why I am proud to be a Titan. The students, staff, and Ms. Likins are all amazing people that work hard to try and make Gunn a better place for all.
Posted by Mary G, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jan 30, 2010 at 8:23 am
I am so proud of the students and teachers at Gunn ,as well as the rest of the school community. They all truly took the high road, meeting hate with love. An excellent education in effective response to violence and in the meaning of the Constitution. Way to go!
Posted by A Palo Alto parent, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jan 30, 2010 at 8:25 am
I find it strange that Gunn postponed classes as a response to this little temper-tantrum of a small group of loonies. If anything similar ever comes up, I hope the schools don't over-react; the message should be "There are lots of crazy people in this world. We don't let them influence our actions." On the other hand, even one day of a half-hour's extra sleep might have done a lot of kids a little good.
Posted by A Noun Ea Mus, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Jan 30, 2010 at 8:38 am
Part of how this cult "does it's thing" is to provoke and infuriate, hope for an over-reaction and then sue. So any counter-protestors need to know what they are dealing with.
On the other hand...is it just me? Am I the only one who gets the distinct impression that many of the more vitriolic calls for NO counter protest are really based on an anti-gay or right wing perpsective?
Not all, but many. It's like they are more uncomfortable that the students will protest Phelps and his ilk.......a social gateway habit....worried it will form bad habits, lead to masturbation and other sordid things. Who knows what might happen next!
Of course the wisest "advice" from a school official(and that is all that can occur--unless you think freedom of assembly and protest should be denied) would be to advise kids to ignore this. Kids tend to be hot tempered and not show good judgment, perhaps good targets for Phelps band of merry cultists.
But at the same time they can also be proud that a counter protest went off so well.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 30, 2010 at 8:54 am
Andrew, very well said.
One thing that I don't think has been said. This group was using its freedom of speech. You may not like what it said and how they said it(I certainly didn't), but you have to agree that they had the right to say it where and when they did. If you think otherwise, then you don't believe in freedom of speech. It works both ways.
Posted by robit noops, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jan 30, 2010 at 10:41 am
I think it would be better to use the term "rally" than "counter protest". By stating that you are counter protesting gives weight to WBC's stance, where as saying that you were rallying for unity seperates your actions from their actions. Just my opinion.
I am glad that the Gunn community is coming together in light of all they have been through. Best wishes!
Posted by Ano Nymous, a resident of another community, on Jan 30, 2010 at 2:31 pm
Speech may be free, but I guess it can be erased for free as well. Mine was. Please quantify the total number of posts allowed per author. Apparently it is OK to post a few messages with many hundreds of characters apiece, but not a larger number of short messages?
It did not appear that you removed any of the incessant postings by "rabbit noops," and she has a much dumber name than mine.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jan 30, 2010 at 2:35 pm
Actually, given the number of high-powered lawyer parents around here, it would be pretty to see Phelps and co. try to sue. The possible countersuits (using pro-bono representation) would be hilarious.
And like the WBC's going to look good targeting a school subject to a series of recent tragedies?
Posted by JS, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 30, 2010 at 4:50 pm
I think it would be funny if, when Phelps dies, that it's revealed he was always pro-gay and used his rants to get communities to come together in the fight for gay equality.
The administration only recommended that we stay away. I was there at the rally. But, they always knew that there would be students and staff who were going to participate anyways, and that's cool. They were there and really supportive. All of the teachers who were there were great, like Mrs. Likins, front office people, and especially Mrs. O and Mr. Lira--who had yummy snacks in the Ac.
I also think we had a lot of class, and we didn't try to run across the street to argue with people who couldn't be argued with. There was a staff member there who said that it was wise to stay away from the protesters because their message is absurd, but seeing the anti-gay signs, he said, is something that strikes a nerve in someone who is gay; it's hurtful, and having a love community nearby supporting them was essential. Seeing them on TV and on youtube with the signs is one thing, but seeing it in person can make someone feel violated in a sense.
So, I'm proud of the Gunn students and the many teachers out there holding signs, as well.
Posted by Deekoo, a resident of another community, on Jan 31, 2010 at 12:53 am
Personally, I'm proud that people were willing to stand up and express their opposition to evil. Yes, WBC got some attention out of it - but it would be far worse to silence ourselves and let their message be the only one heard.
Posted by Gunslinger, a resident of another community, on Jan 31, 2010 at 7:09 am
I agree that the WBC shouldn't be going around a school to make their confrontation to the world. Children are not to be placed in the middle of such adult squabbles. It makes the WBC appear unmanly.
That being said, for the school and whatever teachers who partook to incite the kids, to use them as pawns in this adult rumbling and more than anything to put the kids at risk in such a confrontation - inexcusable
Next time dangerous folk are around you keep the kids safe and inside. If there are any provocateurs amongst the teaching staff, well make sure they keep their politics out of the school
Posted by gogunn, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 31, 2010 at 9:51 am
Wow, sad to see the opinions voiced so strongly from those who do not know the facts. Students that felt strongly about the counter-protest worked with the administration to find a way to participate that was meaningful to them. The staff that participated was there to support and care for the students that felt compelled to be there. Students found a way to be heard that made the Phelps group look insignificant and the admin was there to see that things were kept in order. Your problem with that is what?!?!?
Posted by P.A. Native, a resident of Mountain View, on Jan 31, 2010 at 10:19 am
I guess what really bothers people on this board is that the kids stood up for themselves. Is that a lesson we don't want them learning? Is it better to turn the other cheek whenever confronted by those who spew hate? Can't this town just let these kids stick up for their school during a sad time without bashing them for it? WBC does not win, those who say they have aren't seeing the big picture. The coming together of the local schools only shows the community support that Gunn students has. Certainly that's something that can be appreciated right now.
Posted by Gunslinger, a resident of another community, on Jan 31, 2010 at 11:22 am
Kids and especially minor students should not have been allowed to be in such a risky encounter. They are not pawns. If the kids did it on their own that's one thing. But not during school time and not in any way that's permitted by the teachers or adminstration
Posted by Marvin, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2010 at 12:26 pm
Sharon continues to try to turn what became a positive event into something negative.
"Some people seem to believe that it is OK for teachers to promote their beliefs to our minors in the PAUSD."
Which beliefs are you talking about?
"So when will we see teachers at Paly and Gunn wearing tee shirts saying
" Pro-Life, OK with Me " ?"
So it would be okay for teachers to wear those kind of T-shirts? I thought you were against teachers promoting their belief to "our" minors? So certainly beliefs are okay?
What does this have to do with the WBC hate group at Gunn. I thought you were saying the school leaders discouraged any kind of counter protest, now you are saying they okayed it?
Are you upset that the students thought for themselves and wore t-shirts for stands that you disagree with? They were protesting on the street, so they could wear what they wanted. Once they were in school the teachers could decide what was appropriate.
"We will not hold our breath on that one."
WHo is we? If you are against teachers promoting personal beliefs, then you should be against promotion of all beliefs.
I really wonder how much you actually disagree with the WBC
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2010 at 1:50 pm
Presumably, the WBC doesn't disagree with those various conservative views--they also supported Prop. 8 and oppose abortion. If the idea was to be a counter rally, why would you wear a t-shirt that shows agreement with their views?
And I really don't get the fear of kids expressing an actual interest in political issues. Don't we WANT them to be engaged citizens? To think about what people believe? To see the First Amendment in action?
Look, nobody invited these loons to come here. It's the hand we were dealt.
Nobody got hurt. Doesn't even sound like there was a shouting match.
And in the case of Stanford, the Band actually put itself to good use and spared the campus hate-speech.
I think there's a lot to be said for learning that you don't have to just take it, but that you can stand up for your beliefs in a legal, productive way.
And the Band can always use the practice. Maybe if there's a next time, Gunn's chorus can do an early morning practice.
Posted by Gunslinger, a resident of another community, on Jan 31, 2010 at 5:44 pm
Anyone can protest, including kids. However, students should not be aided and abetted by the schools to partake in dangerous encounters. If there were gangs out there trying to recruit, would you allow the students to go out and confront them? I think not. Schools, there are other ways to teach kids civil efficacy without endangering them
Posted by Pal O'Alto, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2010 at 6:45 pm
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
- Edmund Burke
@Gunn parent wrote:
"I'm stoked that ONLY 250 were there. And many of them were not from Gunn. There were estimates that over 1900 would attend so many kids did listen to the staff or chose wisely for themselves."
How is it good that ONLY 250 were there? This is America, a land in which it is a good thing to stand up and be counted. Anyone heard of the civil rights protesters in the 1960s? How fortunate we are that they did not listen to the likes of Bull Connor, "choose wisely" and stay home.
For some reason, Palo Alto seems come completely unglued anytime a group makes a public demonstration. Heaven forbid there should be even the slightest ripple in our utopian, placid pond. C'mon folks, it is time to stop being afraid of our own shadows and start dealing with the real world. Groups like Westboro Baptist Church will not give us a choice in this matter. At least the counter-protesters gave a darn and took a stand against hate and bigotry. Or is that now considered a bad thing?
Perhaps some Palo Altans will go to Topeka and hold a demonstration for love and tolerance? Across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church would be a good location.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2010 at 7:33 pm
Just want to note that I appreciate Pal O'Alto using a quote from the father of conservatism in defense of the counter-ralliers.
Not sure why our worriers (who do, for the most part, post on the conservative side of the political fence) think that the counter rally would have been violent. Our teens are sentient, they're well-informed enough to understand why violence would be counterproductive.
The peaceful nature of the rally wasn't a matter of "luck", but of good judgment.
Posted by Hillary Stangel, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2010 at 8:42 pm
We, as the student body, organized this response to the WBC's decision to protest across our school campus. Our principal advised us against acting against them. However, she organized teachers to watch over the protest to make sure that students would not act out. Any open-minded teacher was invited to participate and take care of students.
Our principal did not organize the rally. She prepared for it, knowing that we are an open community that would be actively upset over this issue. This was the most caring thing any principal could ever do, not denying our first amendment right and assuring that we would be given protection on our own campus.
Posted by danny, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2010 at 8:48 pm
I believe that students should not be stigmatized for their curiosities over the Westboro Baptist Church and its people. If there was an opportunity for peaceful interaction with them, I don't see much of a problem. I therefore disagree with any group response that has said "ignore them", "don't react to them", or "they're nut jobs" or "closet cases", "they're a hate group", etc.
What I fail to see in all the postings here is a more abstract sociological analysis of the WBC protest and the reaction(s). I haven't read the phrase "group prejudice" anywhere, and the group prejudices so far seem to be unbalanced between the WBC and the so-called Gunn community. I haven't seen much of an analysis to what extent expressive action/reaction has been "free expression" or "funded expression", etc.
I remember way back around 1966 when the first anti Vietnam war protest table was set up outside our high school. The reaction of a few vocal faculty was that they were communists, communist sympathizers, and the like. Non-student anti-war activists all over the country were labeled in the media as "outside agitators". Even the word "protester" carried a stigma.
The anti-war table back then had literature from the American Friends Service Committee. I personally was afraid to be seen either talking to them or taking their literature because I would have been singled out by other students and faculty as one of them.
I therefore wonder how many Gunn students didn't want to be seen talking with WBC'rs for the same reason?
For those of you who would like to read some historical precedent with rhyme-like similarities to this Gunn event, check out Web Link . Maybe I should have posted this earlier, but better late than never.
Posted by Sharon, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2010 at 9:11 pm
Phelps was a Civil Rights Lawyer, he has got many awards from the Black community.
He campaigned for Gore and Clinton.
Now, it appears, he is running a shake down operation, they shout equal opportunity hatred to get what ever reaction they can under the First Amendment, they look for violations and then they sue, most of them are lawyers.
They will any issue left right or other.
Unfortunately local identity activist groups will try to use their presence to promote their own agendas manipulating our minor children.
In Palo Alto we saw activists and some teachers at Gunn doing this, this will be investigated and appropriate action will be taken.
It is not fair or legal for teachers to use minors to promote their political agendas, left right or other.
All PA parents agree on this matter.
The most effective rally against WBC was at Twitter in SF, they used humor, parody and the WBC left town.
The Gunn event was a serious mistake, parents must hold the teachers involved accountable, they betrayed our trust.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2010 at 9:26 pm
Investigated by whom? Phelps no longer has an active license to practice law (and I doubt he has ever had one in California).
And it's perfectly legal for teachers to make sure that students who chose to rally (no one was told to attend the rally--they were, in fact, advised not to by the principal) that they did so in a safe manner.
You are trying to stir up trouble, Sharon. Your ignorance here is particularly humorous given your claims at other times to be a lawyer with a degree from Stanford.
Posted by Gunslinger, a resident of another community, on Jan 31, 2010 at 9:53 pm
Hillary, If you students organized this completely exterior of school and not under their responsibility, that's one thing. Now you're your parents responsibility in terms of what decisions you make, and it is their decision whether they wish their kids to engage in encounters with risky people. This was done under the stewardship of the school. Again I ask you, if their were gang members shouting violent statements across from school everyday, would it be proper to allow a mass of students to confront them in any way? Or wouldn't it be most responsible to say, right now you're on our time and you're staying in class and if any of you ditches to go out there I'm calling your parents. You wanna confront dangerous people, do it on non-school hours and with the protection of your parents
Posted by Just the Facts, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Jan 31, 2010 at 10:35 pm
Sorry to go off topic, but felt that Sharon's repeated mention that Phelps supported Gore and Clinton should be given a correct context. Here's what Wikipedia says about Phelps change of heart regarding Gore and Clinton (a few other sources confirm this):
Phelps supported Al Gore in the 1988 Democratic Party primary election because Gore opposed a gay bill of rights in the 1984 Senate race.
"During the 1992 presidential campaign, Phelps protested Hillary Rodham Clinton during a campaign speech in support of the Clinton-Gore ticket at the University of Kansas on October 14, 1992. In Bill Clinton's second presidential campaign, Phelps and the Westboro church also opposed Clinton and Gore because of the administration's support for gay rights. The entire Westboro congregation picketed a 1997 inaugural ball, denouncing Gore as a 'famous fag pimp.' In 1998, Westboro picketed the funeral of Gore's father, screaming vulgarities at Gore and telling him, 'your dad's in Hell.' "
The real question is what Sharon's point is in repeating her statement. Not for me to conjecture....
Posted by JS, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jan 31, 2010 at 10:48 pm
The events took place outside of school hours. There were many parents there, and a letter went out to all parents advising them of the situation. And the teachers didn't use the students; in fact, it could be argued that the students used the teachers to help them. And good luck getting the District involved in "investigating." But perhaps you could ask the Superintendent about the events, he was there, too, wasn't he? And how dare you compare gangs with anti-gay hate. And, Sharon, I love how you can read wikipedia and think yourself as an expert on facts, you even got some of them wrong. And you're no lawyer. If you were, you would know that if the school prevented the students from protesting they would be in violation of their civil rights--especially since school didn't start until 8:30 A.M. You adults who think they know what's best for us "minors" remind me of those parents who were satirized in "South Park: The Movie." You advocate for our protection yet are so lost in what you are advocating for--and you get so wrapped up in what should be that you neglect the very kids you are responsible for. Phelps likes attention, so what? It gave us an opportunity to address some of our fellow classmates who are gay and to remind us that we are a loving community. How did Phelps win? Because he got a rise out of us? He didn't. We sang nice songs and hugged one another. That's better than what a lot of you would have done; you probably would have brought weapons and started screaming like you do at school board meetings, parent committees and down at city hall. It's a sad fact that we learn more how to be humane from one another as students than we do from your ridiculous adult community members.
Posted by whatever, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2010 at 5:26 am
OP, the WBC doesn't disagree with the liberal views of either..remember they were the ones who were barred from being closer to the funerals of returning soldiers because they were protesting Iraq? And they protested Bush, but couldn't get any reactions so they stopped ( conservatives ignore childish behavior, and the liberals agreed, so they couldn't rally any folks and money to their cause)
I wouldn't try to lump these guys into "conservative" or "liberal"..they are really, really smart people who know how to push the buttons of people in order to make money.
Again, however, I note that they know where to go to push whose buttons and get their money.
Posted by Marvin, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2010 at 7:56 am
Let's go over your latest serious of claims, Sharon:
Unfortunately local identity activist groups will try to use their presence to promote their own agendas manipulating our minor children."
Which activist groups are you referring to? Are you saying the Gunn students did not organize the counter demonstartion on their own? Are you saying that they did not have the right to protest on public property?
"In Palo Alto we saw activists and some teachers at Gunn doing this, this will be investigated and appropriate action will be taken."
which activists? Doing what? So far you have not provided any proof whatsoever to bolster your claims. Who will do the investigatibg? What will be investigated--the exercise of free speech that you find so appalling?
"It is not fair or legal for teachers to use minors to promote their political agendas, left right or other."
Which political agenda was promoted by teachers on Friday? Please be specific? Are you saying the counter protest was all the teachers idea and the students were forced to take part?
"All PA parents agree on this matter."
When did you poll all PA parents on this? Of course, you whole hypothesis is bogus, so the above statement holds no water.
"The most effective rally against WBC was at Twitter in SF, they used humor, parody and the WBC left town."
You will note that WBC left Palo Alto also after a few hours.
"The Gunn event was a serious mistake, parents must hold the teachers involved accountable, they betrayed our trust."
The exercise of free speech was a mistake? The solidarity shown by the Gunn students was a mistake? The civics lesson learned was a mistake? Were the teachers supposed to prevent the students from exercising their 1st amendment rights on public property? for what are the teachers to be held accountable for?
Please provide some actual proof for all of your claims. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2010 at 8:05 am
I have a question for all the supporters of the Gunn love in. If a hypothetical group who stood on the opposite side of the street supporting say pro choice, or pro republican, or opposing prop 8, and making a lot of noise, would you still be there loving all those in your community who are pro life, or pro prop 8 or republican? Would you really say that you love everyone, include everyone and that all views are equally valid on campus? Think carefully before you answer, because your answers may just show how inclusive and tolerant you actually are.
This group who seemed to make you so united and gave you such a positive experience has made you say a lot of good feeling sentiments, but is this just an excuse for you to make a lot of noise about something without putting much thought into it? Before you say any more about tolerance, make sure that you are not making life difficult for those who have opinions that are not the same as the majority liberal viewpoint of your campus.
Posted by JS, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Feb 1, 2010 at 8:17 am
Those are political issues. What occurred last Friday were personal attacks against many of our own Gunn student body. It would be the same as people protesting across the street against blacks, Jewish Americans, Asians, or women.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2010 at 9:12 am
Thanks for confirming my suspicions.
Gunn loves everyone provided they don't have the wrong political view.
I suspect there were many on campus last Friday who felt excluded from the tolerant, all inclusive, love in. Remember not to be so hypocrital the next time a student gets out of a car with the "wrong" candidate's bumper sticker, or wears a pro choice button or even has a support prop 8 sign in their yard.
Strongly held political views make someone who they are just as much as happening to have been born in America makes someone American. Harmony and understanding with those with whom you disagree are just as important as acceptance of skin color, gender, or wait for it - Christians.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2010 at 1:53 pm
No, political speech is NOT religious speech. The laws affecting each type are quite different. To confuse the two belittles both.
Since most of the students did not rally, I don't see this being a peer-pressure issue. It's also clear to me that teachers made a point of using the unasked-for protest as a way of demonstrating the First Amendment in action.
And what did that discussion include--understanding that even people who hold strongly different views have the right to speech.
Some of you have views that you feel aren't in the mainstream here. Sorry, after eight years of Bush, I really do not feel sorry for you. You think people on the left haven't felt marginalized and demonized over the years?
All of us have views that put us in the minority in one place or another. Big deal. Learning how to peacefully dissent is a valuable lesson.
Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Feb 1, 2010 at 4:57 pm
To parents who feel that teachers are "promoting their beliefs" when they support all students, gay or straight, what you don't understand is that tolerance a right, not a "belief". Years ago, you could have been saying that they were imposing their "belief" in equal rights for blacks or women.
Posted by graduate, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Feb 1, 2010 at 6:18 pm
Ignoring the protesters may have been a good idea, but showing them what we're made of was much more effective. Gunn isn't ignorant, it's accepting and full of love, despite all that has happened the past year. The counter-protest clearly established that. If there's a bully present, you've got to stand up to him. Simply ignoring the problem at hand and hoping it will go away on it's own won't lead to any results. You can't just let people walk all over you like that. That's why I'm so proud of Gunn students for acting the way that they did, and for showing Fred Phelps that he can't just spread around his unwanted propaganda anywhere he wants.
Posted by Pal O'Alto, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Feb 3, 2010 at 1:01 am
"Now, it appears, he is running a shake down operation, they shout equal opportunity hatred to get what ever reaction they can under the First Amendment, they look for violations and then they sue, most of them are lawyers."
If you believe that, then you don't understand the first thing about the Westboro Baptist Church. They came to the Bay Area to change peoples beliefs and behavior, not to file lawsuits.
"Unfortunately local identity activist groups will try to use their presence to promote their own agendas manipulating our minor children."
Does anybody actually believe that local high school students are that stupid? One would hope not. I think they deserve more credit than that.
"In Palo Alto we saw activists and some teachers at Gunn doing this, this will be investigated and appropriate action will be taken."
Hopefully that will involve teaching students to think for themselves and not to believe everything they are told.
"It is not fair or legal for teachers to use minors to promote their political agendas, left right or other."
True, but what evidence do you have that the school district is trying to brainwash its pupils?
"All PA parents agree on this matter."
You polled each and every parent in Palo Alto?
"The most effective rally against WBC was at Twitter in SF, they used humor, parody and the WBC left town."
The WBC would have left town anyway. They came out here with an agenda and a schedule, not as tourists. You really don't understand what these people are all about or the danger they present, do you?
"The Gunn event was a serious mistake, parents must hold the teachers involved accountable, they betrayed our trust."
We certainly expect our teachers to put up with a lot. They must be the most dedicated people on earth.
The WBC may make offensive remarks, but some of the comments in this forum are even more illogical. Not to mention immature. What a shining example of adult behavior! I find it ironic that some of the most intelligent and rational posts here were made by high school students, yet their judgment is called into question.
Posted by Alan, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Feb 3, 2010 at 9:10 am
[same post as above hopefully formatted for this message board.]
A student-journalist over at Stanford wrote some interesting articles about this group. From that and other links I've concluded this is mostly an operation to create lawsuits for Phelp's other venture with is a law-firm called Phelps Chartered. For example 4 of the 5 protesters were direct relatives, and it seemed the grand kids weren't really into it that much.
I'm sure the church affiliation is just to get tax-exempt status for Phelps family law-firm.
Here are a few facts that I think need to be repeated.
* Phelps Chartered law firm is staffed mostly by relatives.
* Phelps himself was a lawyer until he was disbarred.
* While he seems to have done some good work for civil-rights groups early in his career he also filed 4,000 lawsuit himself as a lawyer. Once he tried to sue Sears for $50 million for being 6 days late on delivering a TV. Another time he sued the college that did not admit two of his kids.
While his antisemitism and anti-gay feelings might be genuine for Phelps himself, I think the really reason he came to Gunn, Stanford, and Twitter was the Phelps family was fishing for a reason to sue someone with money. The protest is intended to be provocative.
I don't think a hill-billy family bring their circus to town is really a threat worthy of a huge counter-protest. I'm not going to criticize those that went, but I do think they were playing into their hands, since they will now claim a tire slashing at Stanford as a something worthy of a lawsuit.
If you must counter protest these people, why not next time have the Gunn Band show up to make a bunch of noise and have the entire crowd turn our backs on Phelps family circus. Maybe even make a t-shirt with "Turn Your Back On Hatred" written on the back. Most important though is to symbolically ignore them.
Posted by gogunn, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Feb 3, 2010 at 10:13 am
Dear Gunn Community,
Because most parents and students were not here on Friday January 30, several of you have asked that I send out a brief summary of what occurred when Fred Phelps's WBC came to picket the Gunn campus. Here is that summary.
We had a late start to school on Friday so that students and teachers would not have to run the gauntlet of the WBC hate signs and shouted slogans. Most students and parents heeded the recommendation that the best response to this group is really no response (because they crave publicity and they get it when the press turns up in force to cover counter-demonstrations), and chose to stay home. Thank you for your cooperation. It really helped. However, there were students who wanted to exercise their right to free speech and who let us know that they would be coming to counter the picketing.
About 30 staff turned up at 7:00 am to monitor the front of the school and make sure that any Gunn students who chose to come to counter-demonstrate stayed safely on our campus, and to monitor the Georgia and Miranda entrances to make sure that non-students did not enter. By 7:15 am they were all in place ready for the picketers and the school marquee was displaying appropriate quotations. PAPD was present on campus and police cars were on Arastradero.
At about 7:15 am quite a large number of students from local high schools (Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Gatos, Saratoga, and Fremont) arrived with signs and banners. A sizable number of Gunn alumni as well as members of local community groups showed up, including a contingent from a church in Los Gatos. All these people arranged themselves on the sidewalk in front the library and along the edge of the road. Thus, the faces that were shown on the news and on the videos posted on Youtube are not only those of Gunn students and staff. Gunn students were all, by prior agreement, on the grass (i.e. on campus) behind them. At 7:15 am the Gunn GSA students (Gay Straight Alliance members) marched out with signs and began to sing. Many people joined them as they sang songs such as "Give Peace a Chance," "Lean on Me," and "This Little Light of MIne." Most students and staff were wearing T-shirts with slogans that supported and celebrated our diversity and unity. That was also true for many, many of the students at school that day. There was a great sense of camaraderie. All those who turned up to support Gunn were friendly and peaceful. At no point did any Gunn student cross the street to engage the picketers although a group of students with a camera from Los Altos High school did so, as did some adult community members.
The WBC pickets turned up promptly at 7:25 am as expected. They demonstrated for 30 minutes and then packed up and moved to the Stanford campus. By then, other Gunn students had started to arrive at school and were drawn to the entrance of school. We allowed them to gather and continue singing. The students were appropriate and
supportive of each other. We began to shepherd them to class at about 8:20 am. By 8:25 am all was quiet at the front of the school and we started a normal day. We had an excellent rally at lunch time in the quad. The theme was "All you need is love" and many students performed. All in all, what began as negative and hateful turned into a truly great celebration of unity and diversity! It was the best community-building activity I have experienced in twelve years at Gunn.
The Gunn community is very grateful to PAPD, District Office staff, OUTLET and many community members for the support we received. The picketing passed without incident. It was a great "teachable moment" for us and the incident sparked great conversation and discussion.