Faced with a faceless

Chronicle Staff

Hate lives in all of our backpacks. Our history textbooks and English novels are filled with that great, loathsome force that drives one human to reject another. However, when one student found in his backpack a homophobic threat two weeks ago, our community was assaulted by the fact that hatred exists even in our own hallways.

Perhaps even worse than the unvarnished bigotry that lies in the note is the fact that it was written and delivered anonymously. Though the threatening nature of the note should be indefensible to even the most fervent defender of free speech, we live in a free society in which everyone is entitled to speak his or her opinions. But if the speaker cannot stand by his or her words and actions and does so anonymously, he or she is a coward who deserves no such liberty. The act of placing a death threat in a backpack is no better than members of the Ku Klux Klan who burned crosses on lawns only under the protection and anonymity of white robes.

When we first heard of the disgraceful note, our reaction was a visceral one of near disbelief. Of course stories of hateful acts appear from time to time, but never this close to home. Even the despicable online comments from a few years ago that led to lawsuits against the school and perpetrators could be rationalized to some degree as a misguided practical joke that spiraled into something twisted in the span of a few keystrokes. This note, however, was something premeditated and planned out. It is truly disturbing to think about one of our own taking a piece of paper and writing such a message, perhaps during science class or maybe after finishing an English reading.

We applaud the way the community reacted. The first meeting of the reinvigorated Gay-Straight Alliance drew a huge crowd. Members of the administration talked to each class about it during meetings. The response mechanisms of our school worked the way they should have. We encourage even more dialogue in the coming weeks.

But there is only one way to truly restore our faith in the general goodness of our little community; the writer of the note must come forward. Just as the Honor Board operates in relative transparency to restore the student-teacher trust after academic transgressions, we need to clear the air in the community with a public disciplinary process, though it is hard to imagine justice in any form other than expulsion. However, the cowardice shown by the writer up to this point all but ensures he or she will stay ignominiously in the shadows. We have a right to free speech, but not to consequence-free speech.