Day of Silence

Boy-with-duct-tape-over-his-mouth-MG-9920Did you know that today is the Day of Silence? If you didn’t know, don’t feel bad because I was just educated about this last year by some of my students.

What is the Day of Silence? The Day of Silence is a nation wide, student led movement to bring attention to anti-gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) bullying, harassment and name calling in schools.

Students across the nation from middle schools to colleges take a vow of silence to represent the silencing effect bullying and harassment has on LGBT students and those believed to be LGBT.

The event is sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Student use their vow of silence to speak up against anti-LGBT bullying and harassment.

I spoke with some of the LGBT students in my school who are planning on participating in the Day of Silence and they are all extremely passionate about it. All of them have been bullied, harassed, felt ostracized or misunderstood in someway and all want to stand up to against those who choose to treat them different from other people just because of their sexual orientation.

Many of them have gotten their straight friends to also participate in the Day of Silence by wearing duck tape (they chose red) around their mouths and not speaking all day. That’s a powerful statement and one I support wholeheartedly.

Often LGBT teens and  young adults feel so alone. This show of solidarity and support is extremely positive.

While students are encouraged to remain silent throughout the day, GLSEN doesn’t encourage classroom disruptions and makes amends for students to talk in class if a teacher insist that they answer a question. However, they also encourage students to talk to their teachers ahead of time for more positive and understanding results.

The day is supposed to be a positive educational experience, not a day of interruption. It’s a silent protest against the harassment and bullying that causes way too many LGBT students to miss school, have poor self-esteem and substance abuse problems, and even attempt and complete suicide each year.

I wrote a previous post about how young is too young to discuss sexual orientation which talks about the importance of the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) and other support groups on campuses for LGBT students and those who support them. The Day of Silence is a powerful way to help other students and school administrations recognize the needs of LGBT students.

The Day of Silence doesn’t stop at the end of the day. GLSEN hopes that those who participate in it will continue to draw attention to the plight of the LGBT student body and community in positive ways and encourages schools to implement solutions that address anti-LGBT bullying and harassment.

GLSEN recommends schools:

  • Adopt and implement a comprehensive anti-bullying policy that enumerates categories such as race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and gender expression/identity.
  • Provide staff trainings to enable school staff to identify and address anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment effectively and in a timely manner.
  • Support student efforts to address anti-LGBT bullying and harassment on campus, such as the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance.
  • Institute age-appropriate, factually accurate and inclusive curricula to help students understand and respect difference within the school community and society as a whole.

I know first hand from working with many LGBT students the painful affects that bullying, harassment and name calling can have, especially when they feel like they can’t voice their concerns to other heterosexual students, adults, teachers and their parents.

I encourage all of us, even if we can’t participate in the Day of Silence, to find one way we can stand up against bullying and harassment in any form, against any person, even if it’s as simple as intervening when we see it happening instead of  watching in silence.

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