A May 19 WND article by Chelsea Schilling unquestioningly repeated anti-gay group Mission America's claims about its attempts to, as the headline asserts, "squash" the Day of Silence event designed to show support for gay students victimized by violence and bullying (we've previously noted that Schilling asserted without evidence that the event is "pro-homosexual"). Schilling went on to detail "some incidents that took place during the silent protests and were reported by Mission America," making no apparent attempt to fact-check Mission America's claims.
Well, somebody did fact-check those a couple of those claims -- Warren Throckmorton, a psychology professor popular in conservative circles whom WND approvingly quoted earlier this month in the midst of attacking gay activist Wayne Besen. Throckmorton didn't like what he found.
Schilling wrote, apparently cribbing straight from Mission America:
Kirksville, Mo.: A parent told Mission America that the Kirksville High School principal and superintendent laughed when she asked if her child could be excused from participating in the school's Day of Silence. According to the organization, she said, "They called me a narrow-minded bigot and refused to give excused absences."
Curious, I called the Kirksville High School Superintendent of schools, Pat Williams about the allegation of name-calling. When I read the account to him, he said, “That’s absolutely false. I did not use that language with any parent or in response to any inquiry.”
He told me that a couple of parents called to express disagreement with the Day of Silence and one mother met in person with him but he did not express any judgment about the mother’s views. He further explained that the matter of an excused absence would be at the discretion of the building principal.
Randy Michael, principal of Kirksville High School also took strong exception to the Mission America source. He said flatly, “That’s not true” when I read the allegation to him. He said he received “two or three” complaints about the event and at least one request for an excused absence which was denied. He explained that there was no basis for an excused absence since no student was compelled to participate in the Day of Silence.
He said both the Day of Silence and Day of Truth [a conservative Christian response to the Day of Silence organized by the consdervative Alliance Defense Fund] were observed in accord with the same standards. Students were required to speak if called on by a teacher. Also, no student could force their materials on others, but could give cards or information out if asked. “Neither day disrupted education,” Mr. Michael said.
I emailed Linda Harvey at Mission America to see if I could interview the parent involved but she declined to provide more information or contact the person who made the allegation. The Kirksville administrators were not aware of any allegations surrounding the Day of Silence until I called. In my opinion, the the information provided by Mr. Williams and Mr. Michael and the fact that the school district also allowed the Day of Truth detract from the credibility of the anonymous allegation.
Schilling also wrote:
Also in Phoenix, at Desert Ridge High School, Arizona Republic reported that between 200 and 250 students stayed home. A parent who objected to the observance hosted a pool party for students who refused to participate. The father, Randy Bellino, told a Phoenix television station that someone sent a text message threatening to shoot his son, and police questioned a group of homosexual students who silently sat across the street from his home.
I talked to Detective Steve Berry at the Mesa Police Department who said the Mesa Police received a call from a student who heard a rumor that someone was planning a shooting on the Day of Silence. No targets were identified. The text message was not a threat but rather a report of the rumored planned shooting. Essentially, Det. Berry said the threat was a rumor that was passed through the grapevine, but there was no text threat directly made toward anyone. Thus, the KPHO.com report is misleading in that no student group was ever identified as responsible. The WND report is misleading in that the boy in question did not actually receive a text message with a threat, according to Det. Berry, who read the police report to me.
Throckmorton concludes: "And those were just the first two bulletpoints. I guess you can’t believe everything you read." That same warning applies to a lot of things one reads at WorldNetDaily.
UPDATE: Tweaked description of Throckmorton; he doesn't specifically advocate gay conversion therapy (but defends the right of those to seek it out).