Northeast High student group stands up for anti-bullying, defends against criticism

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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- A day set aside for tolerance and to spread an anti-bullying message was taken the wrong way by some parents at Northeast Guilford High School Friday.

The Day of Silence project undertaken by more than 30 students with Spectrum student club and by high schoolers across the nation as well encouraged students to stop talking to honor the students unable to speak up about taunting and issues that hurt them.

On Friday, a big rock that sits at the entrance of the school was painted in the same color pattern as the gay flag which prompted several parents to question if this day was about promoting gay rights at the school.

The office received several questions about the intention of the day and FOX8 also received concerns through our Facebook page. One parent said he felt so uncomfortable with the idea of praising homosexuality he kept his child from going to school on Friday.

“What people do in the privacy of their own home is their business,” wrote one parent. “But don't press it on my kids.”

Spectrum leaders said they heard none of that negativity from students in school.

“The students are engaging in it voluntarily,” said Robert Raeford, a teacher who has seen the Spectrum group grow from less than five students three years ago to more than 30 this school year. “There's no incentive other than to educate their peers and I have students that you never would have thought would have been supportive of this issue stand up to their friends and say look I'm wearing the sticker; I support this.”

Elijah Smith, a senior at Northeast Guilford High, said the painting of the rock was done by the art department and not something the Spectrum club fought for. He was excited to arrive to school on Friday and find other groups spreading the same message of inclusion that Spectrum was.

“To say it's a gay rights day -- it's not true,” said Smith. “It's that and more. And that's what this school and others participating in this are trying to show.”