By Corinne Murdock
A local high school has enforced its district mask mandate relentlessly but students dropped their masks to participate in the “Day of Silence,” or “DOS,” a day of action for LGBTQ acceptance. Pre-pandemic, students participated by taping their mouths shut. This year was no different for some, according to reports received by AZ Free News.
Last Friday, the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) Club at Betty H. Fairfax High School within the Phoenix Union High School District (PXU) organized a slew of activities to commemorate students taking a vow of silence for the purported silencing that the LGBTQ+ community faces. The club handed out rainbow lanyards with DOS informational cards, rainbow stickers, and rainbow masks. There were several large tables set up outside with posters, and they encouraged students to participate in either of the two “solidarity circles” during lunch: students standing or walking in a circle holding hands.
AZ Free News reached out to PXU for comment. They didn’t respond by press time.
DOS and the GSA clubs, also identified by a number of other names such as “Genders & Sexualities Alliance” or “Queer-Straight Alliance” at other schools, are the brainchild of Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), an activist organization focusing on minors’ sexualization. GLSEN has expressed repeatedly that they never advocated for duct tape wearing for DOS, but acknowledged that it was a popular outward expression of the vow of silence.
Current students weren’t the only ones subject to GSA exposure that week. Several days prior to the DOS protest, Betty H. Fairfax High School welcomed future freshmen with a GSA booth, among others.
Several months before these events, the club passed out pronoun pins for students and faculty to wear on their lanyards.
Former Arizona Attorney General and Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate Tom Horne said in a statement to AZ Free News that Arizona students’ SAT scores were above the national average but declined after he left office. Horne characterized the GSA club events like Day of Silence as diversions that hurt academic outcomes.
“This is because leadership has neglected the necessary emphasis on academics, with harmful diversions, such as critical race theory, or, as in this case, A day of silence, which interferes with learning,” said Horne. “Schools need to be teaching the academics and not promoting racially divisive critical race theory, or other similar diversions such as the day of silence. The exception for the mask mandate shows runaway hypocrisy. My heroes are teachers who love their subjects, and focus on teaching them, rather than those who see their role as pushing ideological agendas.”
Betty H. Fairfax High School GSA has led the charge on LGBTQ popularity and acceptance in the district for years. In 2018, they won the GSA of the Year award.
Then in 2019, the woman who started the GSA club, Dayna Monroe, won GSA Sponsor of the Year. Monroe explained in an interview on receiving the award that her efforts caused district-wide policy changes. Her students nicknamed her “Mommy Monroe,” with one female student likening Monroe to a “therapist” figure.
“Mrs. Monroe, I consider her my school mom. She’s someone I can trust,” testified another female student.
Monroe has taught in schools for 20 years, with a decade spent in PXU.