Westboro Baptist Church, the anti-gay congregation famous for picketing the funerals of fallen U.S. soldiers, announced on Christmas Day that it plans to picket Shawnee Mission East ahead of the start of the school day on Friday, Jan. 19.
Building administrators met with student representatives today, the first day back after winter break, to discuss the best way to handle the situation. The group plans to foster an inclusive environment at the school that morning by having student groups give a “positive welcome” for each student as they enter the building.
Westboro announced on Christmas that it also planned to picket Olathe Northwest High School on Friday, Jan. 12, citing the existence of a school club organized to show support for people of all genders and sexualities. The group did not give a specific reason for picketing SM East, but the school has an organization similar to the one referenced at Olathe Northwest. Regardless, it’s not the first time Westboro has set up a protest outside SM East. The church protested there in 2009 in response to the student body’s election in 2007 of a gay student as Homecoming King. That demonstration was met with a sizable counter-protest.
The message SM East Principal John McKinney sent to families this afternoon is below:
Good afternoon & Happy New Year. I hope this finds you rested and ready for the second semester of the 17-18 school year.
I need to share some important information with you concerning our community and our school. SME was recently informed that members of the Westboro Baptist Church will be in our community and stationed across the street from our school the morning of January 19, 2018. SME is working with the Prairie Village Police Department and Shawnee Mission School District officials to ensure that our students and staff remain safe and unhindered as they arrive. These efforts will continue until the WBC leaves.
In addition to ensuring the safety of our students and staff, I have also met with student representatives to discuss peaceful, positive ways to counter the WBC’s efforts. Regrettably, this isn’t our first interaction with this organization. You might recall that they protested SME during last year’s graduation. Because their actions were largely ignored, they very quickly disbanded. Please keep in mind that while we are taking this group’s presence and proximity to the SME campus very seriously, we do not want to draw unintentional and unwarranted attention to their efforts. To that end, you can help at home by encouraging your student(s) not to engage or interact with protesters. School will continue as usual Friday morning and students are expected to be in class on time.
As always, thank you for your help at home. Please send any questions or concerns my way.
Principal – SME