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Silence Speaks Volumes About Gay Support

The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian group based in Scottsdale, Ariz., is planning a counter-event today called "Day of Truth," with its own T-shirts and messages to "counter the promotion of the homosexual agenda in the public schools," said Mike Johnson, an attorney for the group.

James Le Duc, whose daughter Tabitha, 15, planned to participate in the event at the Minnie Howard School in Alexandria, said he thought it would be a "positive experience" for his daughter.

T.C . Williams High seniors Ralph Dela Rosa, Lisa Reynolds and Morgan Frankena vowed silence to support gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual community. (Katherine Frey For The Washington Post)

"There's enough problems they face at this age that their sexuality doesn't have to be one of them," he said. "And if it gets my kids silent for a while, that's a bonus, too."

As Frankena and the other participants drifted wordlessly through the halls, several teachers also donned the shirts, though most did not stop talking.

Dan Mladnick, a U.S. history and peace studies teacher, said he planned to connect the event to his class discussion of civil rights. Jessica Haney, an English teacher who was one of the event's sponsors at T.C. Williams, planned to discuss it, as well.

"I already so often have to deal with comments such as . . . 'That's so gay,' " she said. "I just want to use [the event] as a forum for explaining, like: 'You all know that I'm straight and I have a husband, but if I weren't, would I feel comfortable sharing it with you? Maybe one of you has a gay parent. Every day, someone is being silenced.' "

But art teacher Patty "Doc" Lewis did not say a word all day. She slipped in a rock music CD as students worked on a study of pop art. Two students whose mouths were covered with duct tape that read "Silence" and "Shhh!" wrote notes to each other about how hard it was not to talk all day. "Class is too quiet without us talkin," one wrote.

After school, about 30 students and teachers from area schools met at a cafe in Alexandria to break their silence and compare notes. They recited poetry and read from a banner that Wakefield students had signed with their thoughts.

Students from Falls Church High School in Fairfax County said the day went much better this year than last year, when some students joked about holding a "Day of Loudness." Frankena said it was a relief to be able to talk about the day afterward. "This is a really good time to deflate, to just relax and talk about it and commiserate with other people," she said. "And to talk about how we're going to do it next year."

Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.

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