News (USA)

Annual ‘Day of Silence’ calls attention to ‘silencing effect’ of anti-LGBT bullying

Hundreds of thousands of students across the United States, and in nearly 60 countries around the world, on Friday participated in the 17th annual “Day of Silence” — an event designed to illustrate the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment.

Students from more than 8,000 middle schools and high schools registered to participate in this year’s Day of Silence, a student-led action which is sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN).

Students typically participate in the Day of Silence by taking a vow of silence throughout the school day, many of whom will call attention to their silent protest by distributing “speaking cards,” which read:

“Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence (DOS), a national youth movement bringing attention to the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by anti-LGBT bullying, name-calling and harassment.

“I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward building awareness and making a commitment to address these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today.”

“The Day of Silence is important to me because its sheds a silent light on students who face hurtful bullying,” said Jeremy Brown, a high school student from Fargo, North Dakota.

“Every time an anti-gay word or action is used it becomes louder in my mind. The Day of Silence has the ability to bring students together to support those who’ve been affected by harsh words and actions, which I really believe everyone can relate to.”

Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students reported being harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation, and 30 percent report missing at least a day of school in the past month out of fear for their personal safety, according to GLSEN’s 2009 National School Climate Survey of more than 7,000 LGBT students.

“The Day of Silence is an expression of solidarity, of strength, of urgency and of hope,” said GLSEN Executive Director Dr. Eliza Byard. “Every year, new action in new places occurs as the result of a shared resolve to make sure schools are safe for all.”

The Day of Silence was founded in 1996 by students at the University of Virginia with over 150 students participating in the inaugural event. In 2001, GLSEN became the official organizational sponsor for the event.

“We started the Day of Silence as a group of young people who wanted to speak out against the daily silencing we faced as LGBT students,” said Day of Silence Co-founder Jesse Gilliam. “I am so heartened students at over 8,000 schools are using the Day of Silence to take a stand against bullying, homophobia, and transphobia. I want to thank each of these students and GLSEN for their courageous leadership.”

This year’s “Day of Silence” is particularly significant as the White House released a statement supporting the Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) and the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA).

“Today’s announcement is a vital show of support to students everywhere of all identities, backgrounds and beliefs who face bullying and harassment in school,” said Byard.

“By speaking out on GLSEN’s Day of Silence in support of these two critical bills, the President has given greater hope to students who often feel that they have nowhere to turn. It is deeply moving to know that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students who face the multiple threats of harassment, violence and discrimination have the President as an ally in their efforts to win all of the protections that they deserve.”

GLSEN has put together this video retrospective of the Day of Silence, then and now:

Obama endorses SNDA, SSIA anti-bullying bills

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