Students in more than 8,000 schools are gearing up to go silent on Friday, April 11. They will take a vow of silence for the duration of the school day in order to raise awareness of the high rate of bullying, name calling, and harassment of LGBTQ youth in schools.
Twitter is already thick with tweets (#DayofSilence) by some of the hundreds of thousands of students who will participate in the event, Day of Silence, designed to illustrate the silencing effect of anti-LBGTQ bias. Modeled after student-led nonviolent protests, Day of Silence was started by students at the University of Virginia in 1996. Now orchestrated through the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the annual event drew participants from 70 countries last year.
Students typically wear T-shirts, stickers, or buttons and hand out notes explaining why they are silent. Participants in the organization’s “Selfies for Silence” campaign hold signs saying what they are doing to address the silence around harassment and post the pictures.
The event has gained support from politicians, with Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) introducing a resolution last year in the U.S. House of Representatives commemorating the Day of Silence. According to the GSLEN site, Day of Silence resolutions have been introduced into six state legislatures, including California, New York, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and West Virginia.
A document provided by Lamda Legal, “National Day of Silence: The Freedom to Speak Out (or Not),” outlines students’ legal rights to remain silent in school on April 11. GSLEN also offers students a way to report incidents of school officials resisting their efforts to organize for Day of Silence.
According to GLSEN,
More than 8 out of 10 LGBT students (82%) are harassed at school each year because of their sexual orientation and more than 6 out of 10 (64%) because of their gender expression, according to GLSEN’s 2011 National School Climate Survey. More than 31% of LGBT students said they missed at least a day of school in the past month because they felt unsafe.
The report also found that students who are more frequently harassed skip school more often, have lower grade point averages, higher rates of depression and lower self-esteem, and are less likely to go on to college.
The report shows, however, that students at schools that take action to address anti-LGBT bias and behavior – such as supporting students who participate in GLSEN’s Day of Silence – experience less victimization, have better educational outcomes and report better mental health.
Students and schools can register for the event on the GLSEN site and contact the organization to find out about participating schools and students in their area. Buttons, T-shirts, and dowloadable logos are also available.