April 18 is the 11th Annual Day of Silence.
The Day of Silence is an annual event held to bring attention to anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and discrimination in schools. Students and teachers nationwide will observe the day in silence to echo the silence that LGBT and ally students face everyday. In it's 11th year, the Day of Silence is one of the largest student-led actions in the country.
Pittsburgh's chapter of GLSEN leads the charge on the student-driven effort to educate and empower their fellow students around LGBT bias in America's schools and the school systems.
So what happens? Essentially, participants remain silent that day in solidarity with those who are “silenced” because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or alliance with the LGBT students. According to the national website, more than half a million students have participated over the past ten years.
Why do we need a Day of Silence?GLSEN’s 2005 National School Climate Survey found that 4 out of 5 LGBT students report verbal, sexual or physical harassment at school and more than 30% report missing at least a day of school in the past month out of fear for their personal safety. The Day of Silence helps bring us closer to making anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and name-calling unacceptable in America’s schools.
The Day of Silence is a call to action. Students can use this day, as well as other GLSEN Days of Action, as a means of achieving an “ask.” An ask is a very specific action that calls for a change in school policies, climate, and culture to achieve a larger goal of safe schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. Some examples of an ask include: adding sexual orientation and gender identity/expression in your school’s non-discrimination or anti-harassment policy, or training teachers to respond effectively to anti-LGBT bullying, harassment, and name-calling.
Here's a good example of why this day is so important. Christian-opponents have begun organizing “Days of Truth” to spread their message of gay-intolerance in the schools. They believe that the learning environment should not respect or protect the rights of all students to pursue an education without harassment or discrimination. They twist this into a Christianity versus homosexuality situation and have gone to court to force school districts to recognize their free speech and freedom of religion in this context. The schools are backing down because its a fine line.
What's interesting is the Christo arguement that a Day of Silence impedes their free speech. Ironic, no?
Check out the GLSEN website and take a moment on April 18 to contemplate all the ways in which you are silenced.