School Climate & Safety

Students Counter Anti-Gay Protesters at a Washington High School

By Alyssa Morones — June 09, 2014 2 min read
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By guest blogger Alyssa Morones


Students at a District of Columbia public high school this morning rallied outside their school, carrying signs and chanting support, in an effort to counter the Westboro Baptist Church’s decision to gather across the street in protest of the school’s annual Pride Day event.

The public demonstrations at the 1,700-student Woodrow Wilson High School comes a week after Principal Pete Cahall made news by announcing to the student body that he is gay.

“We have to show that we’re proud of Wilson and that we’re accepting of all students,” said Wilson senior Aiden Parisi, who co-heads the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance.

Parisi was one of the students who led hundreds of classmates and members of the community in chants supporting the counterprotest’s message of equality.

“Wilson is all about acceptance and love,” said Principal Cahall. “We are a community of diversity. It’s something we value.”

A small group of protesters with Westboro Baptist, a Kansas-based anti-gay group, gathered around the corner from the student-led gathering at Woodrow Wilson High School in the northwest part of Washington. Its members are often in the media for protesting military funerals. The group said they stood in protest of Wilson because of the school’s Pride Day event, according to the Washington Post.

Mr. Cahall explained that, as a precaution, members of the city police department and the school district’s office of school safety were present for the rally. Additionally, prior to the protest, he released a set of counterprotest guidelines for students in a message on the school’s website.

Last Wednesday, Wilson High School held its second annual Pride Day event. It was here that Mr. Cahall, flanked by District of Columbia.Mayor Vincent C. Gray and David A. Catania, the D.C Council’s first openly gay member, reported the Washington Post last week.

Since then, Mr. Cahall said that his high school’s community “has embraced me with open arms. Words don’t describe it.”

He said that, since the announcement, he’s received thousands of emails and texts from across the world supporting him.

“Parents have written me, saying that their son or daughter is gay and how their children struggle, saying they wish that their children could go to Wilson High School,” said Mr. Cahall.

Mr. Cahall has been the principal of Wilson since 2008, according to the Post, when then-Chancellor Michelle Rhee recruited him from Montgomery County, Md..

Photo: Woodrow Wilson High School senior Jocelyn Williams, 17, runs through students and supporters with a flag as they rally in support of their LGBTQ community outside of the school on June 9th.--Swikar Patel/Education Week

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.