By: Sarah O’Connor, Staff Writer
Over 200 York High School students rallied against bullying across the street from the high school on Monday morning. The rally was in response to a violent confrontation between a bully and the older brother of a taunted student. The bullied 14-year-old gay student was supported by friends and students that gathered at 6:30 am with positive signs and colorful costumes.
The students wrote a statement that read, “We are standing out here today to rally for EVERYONE being bullied, to spread a positive message of GayPride, to stand for the LGBTQ+ community, and to bring awareness to hate crimes. We do not support or condone the way that many students are treated here at York High School and need to show that this is an issue here and is one that we will no longer stand for.”
York High Senior Laura Kenealy attended the rally. She is proud of her school for coming together for the rally and was awed by how much support it got. Cars would drive by, honk, and applaud. She said even a school bus drove by and students flew a rainbow flag out the back.
“Even if you don’t like Garrett, you went to the rally to support what is stood for,” Kenealy told the Free Press. “It was good to see that a hundred or so teenagers got up and were able to be so energetic and supportive.”
The statement released by the students also mentioned that they did not support the hashtag “#free (the older brother)”. Students wore t-shirts with this hashtag to the Friday night football game after the violent incident to support standing up to bullies as the older brother did. Principal Francis sent an email out to students urging them not to wear the shirts because it “does not read support for all students.” York Police told WCSH6 that they expected formal assault charges to be taken up with the YHS student.
The statement continued with, “Our goal is to […] work with administration to create a school with a more effective bullying policy. We are not here against administration, but rather to work with them to let them know that we want to see a change.”
Kenealy noted that many students blamed the administration for not handling the situation well. Eventually, she said, students came around and saw that the situation was complicated.
“They may have handled it poorly at first,” Kenealy said, “but they handled it much better later on. Teachers reacted well.”
According to Kenealy, Principal Karl Francis met with the teachers Monday morning before school started. He wanted the teachers to discuss the situation with students, which they all did at the beginning of the school day. In addition, he spoke to the Student Government and Class Officers regarding what can be done to improve the bullying policy. In his email, Principal Francis suggested they wear blue and white that Monday after Friday’s violent incident to demonstrate unity and to wear orange the following Friday to recognize a “Unity Day” and raise awareness of bully prevention.
Francis concluded his email saying, “The goal is to stand together against bullying — united for kindness, acceptance, and inclusion.”