More than 20,000 students are registered and hundreds of thousands more will participate at middle schools, high schools and colleges from every state in the country in GLSEN's National Day of Silence on Friday April 15th by taking some form of a vow of silence to raise awareness about anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) name-calling, bullying and harassment.
This year marks the 15th anniversary of the first Day of Silence, held at the University of Virginia in 1996 by students who wanted to call attention to anti-LGBT bullying on campus. The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network became the official sponsor in 2001, and participation has grown to include students from more than 7,500 middle and high schools-10% of schools nationwide--last year and hundreds of colleges.
“The Day of Silence is a symbolic representation of the silencing effect young people across the country experience every day because of anti-LGBT bullying,” GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. “For far too long we as a nation have ignored the pervasive problem of anti-LGBT bullying. While we at GLSEN are working to improve the situation in schools for LGBT youth and those perceived to be LGBT, students across the country are coming together on the Day of Silence to say it needs to get better now.”
Students typically participate by remaining silent throughout the school day, unless asked to speak in class. The Day of Silence often ends with a Breaking the Silence event. Participating students are available for interviews at schools around the country.
Research has continually shown that anti-LGBT bullying is commonplace in American schools. Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT youth (84.6%) reported being harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation and nearly two-thirds (63.7%) because of their gender expression, according to GLSEN's 2009 National School Climate Survey of more than 7,000 LGBT students.
The report also found that 3 out of 5 LGBT youth (61.1%) felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and nearly a third (30%) had missed school in the last month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable.
To bring attention to this problem and explain their participation in the Day of Silence, students often hand out speaking cards found on www.DayofSilence.org that 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 in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN 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.
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