W.Pa high school/middle school plans 35-hour vigil for victims of violence

A Stronger than Hate sign is held up at a 2018 protest, rallying against a presidential visit to the Tree of Life Synagogue. (Photo by by Jake Mysliwczyk for the Pittsburgh Current)

By Alli Schroeder

High school and middle school students and faculty at the Baldwin-Whitehall Area School District are planning a 35-hour vigil to honor victims of identity-based violence and school violence.

The vigil, to be held from 9:30 a.m. Saturday, March 21, through 8:30 p.m. March 22, will take place in the high school gym and Large Group Instruction Room.

In the gym, the goal is for about 250 people to take 15- or 20-minute shifts reading the names of 2,100 people who have died as victims of school violence or identity-based violence (violence targeting a person because of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or ability). The recitation of these names is scheduled to continue throughout the entire 35-hour event.

In the LGI, there will be presentations by representatives of groups that have been affected by this violence. These presentations would run hourly from noon to 8 p.m. on March 21 and from noon to 7 p.m. on March 22.

Organizers hope to have artwork and musical performances in the hallways between LGI and the gym.

Middle school English teacher Daniel Shaner and middle school social studies teacher Anthony Barbano are planning the event.

“This will not be fun and it is not intended to be enjoyable,” Shaner said. “But it is important and we can all grow from it.”

Several speakers are already lined up to present, including Baldwin grad Tim Hindes, the creator of the Stronger than Hate logo, which was designed after the October 2018 Squirrel Hill synagogue shooting.

Food and drink will be available throughout the vigil, with proceeds going to a relief agency.

Meanwhile, Shaner also wants to install a permanent stone memorial as early as this summer that would list the 225 names of school-based violence victims since the shooting at Columbine.

The location for the memorial has not been set. Shaner has a stonemason who would donate his work for the memorial, teachers who have volunteered to etch the names, and a grant to cover some of the costs.

Alli Schroeder is a multimedia editor at the Purbalite, the school paper of Baldwin High School, where this story first appeared. It is republished here through the Capital-Star’s agreement with The Pittsburgh Current