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Students falling silent to make noise over homophobia

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

Amy of Lodi will be making an important statement at school on Friday — by not saying anything. For a new generation of student protestors across the United States, this is a day when they try to make a better world: They are turning mute, in an effort to bring attention to the bullying and harassment that homosexual students face, during the 15th annual Day of Silence.

For students of color, in particular, homosexuality can be “a great disappointment or dishonor to the family. Add to this constant teasing for being Asian, or Latino, or African-American, etc., in schools, and it’s an unbearable pain to withstand,” Amy writes on

Less than a week before last year’s Day of Silence, 11-year-old Massachusetts student Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover killed himself after suffering sustained bullying over his perceived sexuality. There have been similar examples nationwide.

Students, understandably, shouldn’t remain mum in a classroom Friday if a teacher asks them to speak, say the event’s organizers, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Group members have emphasized that they do not want to disrupt schooling.

Instead, the group has encouraged youngsters to seek out educators ahead of time, so that they understand one another‘s intents and expectations.

GLSEN has even produced downloadable cards that participants can distribute:

“Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence, a national youth movement bringing attention to the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies in schools. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by name-calling, bullying and harassment. I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward fighting these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today. What are you going to do to end the silence?”

Now if only some of the educators would participate, as well, then we’d have quite a story.

IF YOU PARTICIPATE: Write to us at as soon, and often, as you can. GLSEN says tweeting, Facebook posts and other forms of electronic communication will help highlight and underscore the purpose behind the Day of Silence. And if you’re a teacher: Please share the experience with us. We will update all posts throughout the day.

The event began in 1996, when more than 150 students at the University of Virginia organized a Day of Silence to draw attention to homophobia and anti-gay harassment. It immediately expanded — and has even migrated to Australia and other countries.

Nearly 9 out of 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students (86.2%) reported being verbally harassed at school in 2007 because of their sexual orientation, according to a GLSEN survey of more than 6,000 LGBT youngsters. Nearly half (44.1%) reported being physically harassed and about a quarter (22.1%) reported being physically assaulted, the group says.

The report also found that 3 out of 5 LGBT youth (60.8%) felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.

Still, there’s already been a backlash, with the Religious Right calling the event a stunt to “indoctrinate children into the so-called homosexual lifestyle.”

Some opponents have even tried to hit the sweet spot of today’s America — the fact that, in public schools, taxpayer dollars are used to fund education of students, not “political” demonstrations.

Similar tactics have failed in the past — otherwise, the Day of Silence would be a moot point instead of a mute one.

The majority of those K-12 and post-secondary school students participating are “rebelling from traditional values, ignorant peers, and a society that shuns us for who we are, whether it be based on race or sexual orientation,” Amy writes.

For this one day though, they get to “speak” with one voice. And echo the sounds of silence. offers tips for any student who faces trouble over Friday‘s demonstration:

1. Stay cool: It’s difficult to be challenged, and some that oppose the Day of Silence may say hurtful things. Relax. Breathe. Remember that you’re participating in DOS to make a difference, not to start fights.

2. Step away: The Day of Silence is about starting conversations, but often those strongly opposing DOS are not truly interested in genuine conversation. Some are only interested in provoking you. In these cases it’s best to walk away and not respond. Don’t let anyone detract from the purpose!

3. Be respectful: The Day of Silence is about ending anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in school. To do this, it’s important to treat people with respect. Treat people who oppose the DOS not as they treat you but with the same respect you hope to be treated with. Remember, the Day of Silence is a peaceful demonstration!

4. Share The Four Truths: Often people make decisions about the Day of Silence without getting accurate information about the action. This document highlights four often misunderstood elements of the Day of Silence. Print it out and provide it to those who may be confused as to what DOS is for.

5. Report it: If there are people who are bullying or harassing you as part of their opposition, you should report it—to school officials, online authorities, your parents—immediately. In school, make sure to notify a supportive staff member, and ask for their assistance as you follow up on the status of your report.

6. Share your story: Stay connected with other organizers about your experience. Talk to your student club or tell your story on the Facebook Day of Silence Page and Twitter.

7. Contact us: If you experience extreme amounts of opposition, face bullying and harassment, or feel your rights have been violated, please contact us at and let us know right away! We can put you in touch with the appropriate legal support.

8. Spread the word: Share this post with other organizers so that we can all work together to focus our attention on the things that matter to make change.

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