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No unrest reported during students' 'Day of Silence'

School officials said Friday was uneventful for Tampa Bay area students observing a "Day of Silence'' protest organized by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

Most of the high-schoolers who participated moved quietly between classes, undisturbed by teachers or classmates. Their goal was to bring attention to injustices suffered by those who aren't heterosexual.

"I haven't had any parent calls, teacher calls or non-parent calls,'' said Linda Cobbe, a spokeswoman for the Hillsborough School District. "It's just been really quiet.''

The same was true in Pinellas schools, where spokeswoman Andrea Zahn said she was unaware of any incidents related to the Day of Silence.

Friday's protest drew the ire of local conservative activists, who called it a tool used to seduce young people into a "homosexual agenda." Others denied the charge, saying the Day of Silence goes beyond the rights of gay students.

"It honors any student who is being treated unfairly," said Lynn Mattiace, of the Pinellas district's office of safe and drug-free schools. "It really speaks to diversity and tolerance toward people who are different from us, whoever 'us' is."

Students at some schools wore index cards explaining why they were silent. Others proffered hand-printed signs. At Palm Harbor University High School, dozens of students wore purple ribbons — and were largely ignored.

Brittany Moore, the 17-year-old president of the school's Gay-Straight Alliance, said she wished there had been more of a response. Still, Moore said, it was better than the past two years, when students verbally assaulted those who participated in the event.

"I think we're slowly gaining a trust," she said. "I've seen more tolerance, more acceptance."

Many Tampa students were receptive.

Stephen Antonelli, 17, a senior at Gaither High School, said more than 50 students there observed the silence, wearing T-shirts and ribbons and distributing cards about the protest.

"Maybe 40 students came up to me today and asked me about it," Antonelli said. "I would just hand out the cards and try to (telepathically) tell them they could keep it."

Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at (813) 269-5313 or rmitchell@sptimes.com.

No unrest reported during students' 'Day of Silence' 04/25/08 [Last modified: Sunday, April 27, 2008 9:11am]
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