As a middle school student, I faced many challenges trying to organize a Day of Silence event at my school. I faced resistance from school administrators and people in the community. In a perfect world, schools would recognize the need for events like the Day of Silence, as well as how important it is that students have the right to hold events like it. This is not always the case, and it wasn't for me.
I decided to hold a Day of Silence event at my school because it was a place where students needed to be educated about people whose identities and experiences are different from their own. Having this awareness can prevent the use of hurtful language and a hostile school climate.
I saw the Day of Silence as a perfect opportunity to say to my peers, “Hey, let’s stop for a second and think about the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students in this school. Let’s think about the gay or transgender jokes and slurs we hear in the hall or on the bus. Let’s think about how school policies and the actions of students and staff can help to shape a school environment where either some students feel like they are silenced by bullying or can’t speak up because no one will listen or understand. Let’s create an environment where everyone feels free to have their own unique voice and be themselves, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Because of the challenges I faced, I was not able to organize a successful Day of Silence in middle school, which was definitely a disappointment. But the good news is that, despite this fact, I don’t regret my many attempts at doing so. One thing I did get to do is start a conversation with my school administrators and even some students about the need for education and action to ensure that everyone can learn in a place where they feel respected and valued, every day.
This year, I am a freshman at a high school in the same district that is much more supportive of events like the Day of Silence. I've started a GSA, which has already hosted a successful Ally Week, and I am more than a little bit excited about our very first Day of Silence this April 19. I hope that it will be a day where my fellow students and I can reflect on what a loss it is for voices around the school to stop for even one day. But more than that, I hope it will be a day that sparks discussion and change for the rest of the year and beyond, as we join the millions of students, educators, and community members who are already taking so many steps to break the silence faced by far too many LGBT students. I hope that no one ever gives up on trying to participate in the Day of Silence, starting a GSA or changing policies at their school.
Because it may be really hard—just like staying silent for a whole day (and I’m a talker, so I know it’s tough)— but it can also bring a lot of people together to produce incredible understanding and change. And isn't that what the Day of Silence is really all about anyways?
Are you participating in this year's Day of Silence? Register here for exclusive tips and resources for organizers. Want to show off your support? Let your shirt do the talking with Day of Silence shirts and other gear from our store.
Sultana High School is censoring and discriminating against its Gay-Straight Alliance. The Hesperia, CA school is limiting the GSA from using LGBT-inclusive language and participating in activities like GLSEN's Day of Silence and Ally Week.
Today is the first school day since news broke last week during Spring Break that the ACLU of Southern California sent a letter demanding the school district stop discriminating against the school's GSA.
As they return to school today, the GSA members could face retaliation for their decision to stand up to their school district.
Along with our partners at the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, It Gets Project, and the California-based GSA Network, we want to send a clear message to Sultana High GSA members as they head back to school:
We are proud of you and we've got your back.
They believe that every student deserves to be safe and treated with respect, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Help us show them that people all across the country stand with them against discrimination.
The members of Sultana High School's Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) have a bullying problem.
The students can't go to their teachers for help because the bullies at Sultana aren't their classmates; they're the educators and administrators who should be protecting them.
The ACLU Foundation of Southern California (ACLU/SC) sent a formal complaint to the school district today, objecting to the school's systematic discrimination of the GSA and of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and gender non-conforming (GNC) students.
Teachers at the school discriminated against students who are or are perceived to be LGBT and GNC, often using biased remarks in the classroom. In one case, a teacher told a student who had not received a valentine on Valentine's Day that it was "because you’re gay and nobody wants to be with you." Administrators also blocked the posting of GLSEN "Think Before You Speak" flyers which explained why the slurs used by some educators — such as "that's so gay"— have no place in schools.
Students observing GLSEN's Day of Silence also encountered resistance from school staff and teachers. For instance, a teacher forced one participant to sit in a corner by herself for the duration of a class period. On last year's Day of Silence, another teacher remarked to the class that “the gays are the real bullies.” Thorough it all, school administrators have refused to effectively reprimand and educate the offending teachers. Changing this is vital, because fostering supportive teachers gives LGBT students a greater sense of belonging in their school communities, according to GLSEN's 2011 National School Climate Survey.
In addition, school officials treated the GSA differently than other student clubs, censoring its speech and obstructing its activities. They changed the club's announcements to omit any reference to LGBT youth, and routinely blocked movie viewings at the club. GLSEN's 2011 National School Climate Surveyfound that GSAs are a huge asset for LGBT youth in schools, making students feel less unsafe because of their sexual orientation than those without a GSA (54.9% vs. 70.6%).
Teachers and administrators have a duty to create safe and affirming schools for all students, including those who are LGBT or GNC. GLSEN is seriously concerned that the school is blocking proven resources that improve school climate from reaching students. We encourage the district to listen to the ACLU/SC and take actions that help, not hurt, all of its students.
Last month we launched our new store, making it easier for you to get gear for actions,
reports and research, and fun swag to show off your support for GLSEN and safer schools.
Now, Day of Silence is just a little more than a month away, so it’s time to start preparing!
We have the awesome shirts you see here, as well as posters, buttons, stickers, and temporary tattoos.
There’s everything you and your GSA need to make your Day of Silence a success!
"Why silence? Aren’t we trying to fight against silence?” Saad, a 2010-2011 GLSEN Student Ambassador, shares how silence on the Day of Silence is used as a powerful tool for direct action and social change:
Are you participating? Make sure you’re registered so that we can support you and your school. Register today and join the movement!
Today is the culmination of GLSEN's Safe Schools Advocacy Summit, a weekend of learning and lobbying in Washington, DC. Right now, more than 40 GLSEN activists are urging their representatives in Congress to make safer schools for all students. If you're sad that you can't be at the Capitol today - don't be! We've got live updates and videos to transport you from the halls of your school to the halls of power. Here's what's happened so far today: 10:38 am After breakfast, Emma and César filmed a message as they got ready for their first meetings:
11:45 am Emma had a great meeting with the office of Senator Dick Durbin:
12 pm César might have been super nervous before his meeting with Senator Kay Hagan's office, but it went perfectly!
1:15 pm Emma met with the office of one of the co-sponsors of the Safe Schools Improvement Act, Senator Mark Kirk. What a great chance to say, "Thanks!"
2:30 pm That's a full day for Emma! Three meetings down, three great opportunities to discuss safer schools. Check out her video:
3 pm César is heading into his next meeting...
3:30 pm ... and leaving the meeting:
5 pm César rounded out the day with a late visit to Senator Burr's office:
Here's our first update from Emma & César: We made it to DC safely and back to the hotel -- despite construction on the subway! We're about to head into our first workshop and wanted to send you a quick first hello. Check it out.
The Day of Silence is approaching! On April 19, students around the world will take a vow of silence to draw attention to the bullying and harassment that too many LGBT students face each day. Student ambassador César Rodriguez created a video about why you should register. Check it out!
Early registrants will get free Day of Silence gear. Plus, everyone who registers will be sent tips and resources to help your Day of Silence activities be the best they can be! Click here to register!
As you have probably noticed, news headlines have been filled with stories of coaches and athletes talking about LGBT issues. Some stories have spotlighted brave straight allies like GLSEN supporter and star NBA player Kenneth Faried of the Denver Nuggets. Yet, it’s still far too common to read about homophobia in Physical Education and sports, including the story about Alabama high school coach’s anti-gay rant during class. But tonight, GLSEN is part of a different and uplifting storyline about coming out in the world of sports. GLSEN partnered with USA Network’s sports drama Necessary Roughness that follows the story of one player on the New York Hawks football team coming out as gay to his fellow teammates and fans. Tonight’s episode also includes a PSA with Necessary Roughness actress Callie Thorne calling attention to GLSEN’s work to create safe and affirming Physical Education and sports environments in K-12 schools. The episodes and PSA are part of USA Network’s Characters Unite month to combat hate, intolerance and discrimination and GLSEN is a proud partner of the award-winning public service program created to address the social injustices and cultural divides still prevalent in our society. Tune in tonight at 10/9 central to watch this heartening storyline unfold. And while this story was made for TV, all of us at GLSEN are working hard to ensure that one day this may be a reality for the next generation of professional athletes.
Has your Gay-Straight Alliance or similar club accomplished amazing things this year? Tell us how your club is making a difference in your schoo! Your GSA could be selected as GLSEN’s 2013 GSA of the Year, presented by AT&T, to be honored at the Respect Awards – New York on May 20. Apply now. GLSEN will send a GSA student representative and the GSA’s advisor to New York to accept the award. One runner-up will receive recognition in the Respect Awards program. Click here to nominate a GSA (including your own)! GLSEN is also calling for nominations for our 2013 Educator of the Year, presented by Sodexo. Each year GLSEN recognizes and celebrates a K-12 Educator for outstanding accomplishments and commitment to safe and affirming schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. Click here to nominate an educator for GLSEN’s Educator of the Year Award The period to nominate closes February 24th at midnight, so submit today!