As I read the article, “Students protest after district vetoes play”, related to the decision by Oak Harbor High School’s principal to bar the student production of “The Laramie Project”, I found myself reflecting on two other News-Times articles that were published over the last year:
June 2022: “Oak Harbor man with history of homophobic posts arrested on $1 million bail for alleged hate crime” – Officers from seven law enforcement agencies, responders from two federal agencies, multiple armored vehicles, a negotiating team and a police helicopter took part in the arrest June 17 of an Oak Harbor man who had been posting online comments about killing gay people and seemed to be especially fixated on the Anacortes Pride Parade.
May 2023: “Survey says the kids aren’t alright” – Data indicates that “54% of high school seniors on Whidbey Island reported feeling so sad or hopeless for two weeks or more that they stopped doing their usual activities, compared to the state average of 45%.” (Note: LGBTQ youth are 1.75 times more likely than their peers to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression.)
The subtext of these articles – literally pulled from our community’s headlines – underscores how important it is that we redouble our efforts to promote the safety and welfare of all youth – and especially LGBTQ youth – in our community.
And, these are the message promoted by “The Laramie Project”, which presents the story of the aftermath following the 1998 murder of University of Wyoming student, Matthew Shepard, who was brutally beaten and left for dead for being gay. At its core, “The Laramie Project” is a story about how we can stand up to bullying, support human rights and reject discrimination – lessons we can benefit from regardless of our age.