“The duct tape symbolizes all the students who are silenced because of discrimination and bullying . . . We want to bring awareness to treat each other with respect. We’re here to learn, not to pick on each other,” said math teacher Tony Venetico, sponsor of the student-run project.
The NOH8 campaign came from United Colors, the high school’s gay-straight alliance, and was inspired by the NOH8 campaign in California, a visual protest of the state’s ban of same sex marriages, Proposition 8. However, Venetico stressed that teachers are not taking a political stand on gender equality or same-sex marriage.
“Our spin on it is for all kids who are discriminated against. There are lesbian and gay students who feel discriminated, but this is universal. There are so many students that don’t fit in, maybe they’re overweight or they’re dealing with depression. They’re afraid to come to school. So many students feel so alone. We’re trying to make it more of a welcoming place,” Venetico said.
Venetico said bullying has gotten worse due to social media.
“Now it’s 24/7 with Facebook and Twitter. There is never an escape. It’s such a hot-button issue because it’s non-stop. There are so many teen suicides,” he said.
Venetico said some kids aren’t bullying maliciously; they think they are teasing. “Just because you don’t mean it, doesn’t mean it isn’t harmful,” he said.
Venetico said he has had positive feedback from students who have seen the photos in his room. BHS senior Matt Weidner shot the photos.
“They’ll say ‘Hey, that’s my gym teacher” and it leads to a lot of questions about why they have the tape on their mouths. So I try to talk to them about how some people feel they have nobody to talk to,” Venetico said. “We’re trying to connect with the students and make them more aware.”
“We’re hoping this spreads the good word to treat each other better and to make our community a better place,” he said.