By Isabella Ainsworth,
On the morning of Thursday, June 1, math teacher Karl Ronning was going to the office to make copies for his classes when he saw that the posters of the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) on the wall bordering the dance room had been slashed with what appeared to be a thin knife.
The Thursday incident was not the first time the posters had been ripped. Earlier, Ronning had seen members of the GSA repair posters that had been ripped and put them on the wall again.
“I figured I needed to start repairing the posters,” Ronning said.
He took the posters back to his classroom and taped them together. Then, he put them back on the wall. But, what Ronning said he found “most disturbing” was that when he passed by the wall again at lunchtime, again going to make copies, he saw that sometime in the past few hours, someone had slashed the posters again.
So, he took them back to his room again, repaired them, and put them up. A little while later, he passed by the wall again, only to see that a couple of the posters had been slashed yet again.
Ronning notified the administration of the incident.
“It’s just not acceptable,” Ronning said.
The wall, which is a light shade of blue, is called the “principal’s wall” as any posters put on it must be approved by Principal William Brown. Last year, the GSA pushed for its own wall, so that people seeking information could find a localized place. While the administration declined to give the club its own wall, it did allow the GSA to use the principal’s wall.
According to GSA president and junior Rocket Drew, hardly any other clubs or organization use the wall, so in effect, it is the GSA’s.
The administration gave the Davis police information about the incident. During the Friday announcements, Principal William Brown explained that the GSA was a school approved organization, and as such was supported by the school administration. Interfering with or ripping the GSA’s approved posters was therefore against school rules.
A school staff member visited the GSA’s June 2 meeting to give them a number to contact if any future incidents occur.
Drew, who has been president for most of the year, said that the GSA meetings, which are held every Friday, are a “safe space for people to find friends.”
He describes the club as having a “positive, really social environment.” In addition to making posters, they plan movie nights every quarter and help health teachers to include issues relevant to the LGBTQ community in their curriculum.
Senior Katrina Sturm has been attending the GSA meetings regularly for about a year. The meetings are important to Sturm.
“It’s a space where I can go and be comfortable about who I am,” Sturm said.
Although this is not the first time the posters have been torn, there are two aspects of the Thursday incident that disturb Drew. First, the perpetrator reacted to the posters in an unusually fast amount of time.
“Normally, there was a lag period of like a week or two weeks between them being torn,” Drew said.
But this time, they put the posters up on Wednesday, and they were slashed the next morning.
Second, the posters were not simply torn, they were slashed.
“You can see the the slashes on the wall where the knife came off of the posters and slashed the wall itself,” Drew said.
According to Sturm, even though Davis tends to be a welcoming community, not everyone subscribes to the LGBTQ friendly atmosphere of Davis, and the slashings just prove that.
“There are still things under the surface that activism can help combat,” Sturm said.
Bill Wheeler has been the adviser for GSA for about a dozen or so years.
This is not the first time that an incident like the recent poster rippings has occurred, according to Wheeler. A number of years ago, a campus supervisor removed some of the club’s posters.
That campus supervisor is no longer employed at Davis High.
Still, the recent slashings and rippings are unsettling to Wheeler.
“It seems like a hate crime,” Wheeler said.
To Wheeler, these incidences reflect larger world issues. Currently, Wheeler said, the vice president of the United States believes that sexual orientation can be “cured,” while the president of the United States is cozying up to Vladimir Putin, who is not addressing the persecution and torture of gay men in Chechnya.
Perhaps the best thing that the perpetrator of the slashings could do, Wheeler thinks, is attend a GSA meeting. There, Wheeler says, he or she would find that “we’re a bunch of humans, laughing.”
Even though Drew is upset about the slashings of the posters, he does, in a way, appreciate the public nature of them.
“I feel like it’s easy to dismiss that sort of bigotry with, ‘oh we’re Davis,’” Drew said. “But when you see the ripped posters hanging off of the wall, it’s pretty hard to be like, ‘yeah that’s tolerance.’”