Hundreds of Thousands of Students Expected to Participate
NEW YORK, April 14 - Hundreds of thousands of students at thousands of schools are expected to participate in GLSEN's 13th annual Day of Silence on Friday by taking some form of a vow of silence to bring attention to anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) name-calling, bullying and harassment.
Students from more than 8,000 middle schools, high schools and colleges registered as participants in last year's Day of Silence, a student-created and student-led event which is sponsored nationally by GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. Students typically participate by remaining silent throughout the school day, unless asked to participate in class. The event is designed to illustrate the silencing effect of this bullying and harassment on LGBT students and those perceived to be LGBT.
Some students are holding the day this year in memory of Carl Walker-Hoover, an 11-year-old from Springfield, Mass., who took his life April 6 after enduring constant bullying at school, including anti-LGBT attacks. Carl, who did not identify as gay, would have turned 12 on the Day of Silence.
"The Day of Silence is a positive event during which students bring attention to the pervasive problem of anti-LGBT bullying in our nation's schools, a problem far too often ignored," GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. "It is inspiring to see so many young people take action to make their schools safer. And yet, just last week, we learned of another reminder of the tragic consequences of anti-LGBT bullying. It didn't matter to Carl's bullies that he didn't identify as gay. Bullies learn from an early age to use homophobic language as the ultimate weapon to degrade their classmates."
Two of the top three reasons students said their peers were most often bullied at school were actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender expression, according to From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, a 2005 report by GLSEN and Harris Interactive. The top reason was physical appearance.
Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT youth (86.2%) reported being verbally harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation, nearly half (44.1%) reported being physically harassed and about a quarter (22.1%) reported being physically assaulted, according to GLSEN's 2007 National School Climate Survey of more than 6,000 LGBT students.
To bring attention to this problem, many students will hand out speaking cards on the Day of Silence, 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."
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established nationally in 1995, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN, sponsor of the Think Before You Speak national public service advertising campaign, seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN's research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.