The Day of Silence is a student-led national event that brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools. Students from middle school to college take a vow of silence in an effort to encourage schools and classmates to address the problem of anti-LGBT behavior by illustrating the silencing effect of bullying and harassment on LGBT students and those perceived to be LGBT.
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & 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. For more information visit www.glsen.org
In order to promote the Day of Silence’s positive impact we need to know how many people participate. Many critics wish to downplay the number of people who support addressing the problem of anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment but by registering, you are helping us prove this that is an important issue that needs to be addressed. Register here and be counted!
In 1996, students at the University of Virginia organized the first Day of Silence in response to a class assignment on non-violent protests with over 150 students participating in this inaugural event. In 1997, organizers took their effort nationally and nearly 100 colleges and universities participated. In 2001, GLSEN became the official organizational sponsor for the event.
The Day of Silence 2011 proved to be an exceptional event, reaching students from small town America to the other side of the globe in New Zealand, Singapore, Russia and everywhere in between. There was also an hour-long special on SiriusXM radio drawing significant attention to the LGBT issues in school and further affirming the Day of Silence as one of the largest student-led actions in the United States.
GLSEN’s 2009 National School Climate Survey found that nearly 9 out of 10 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. Moreover, 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. Thus, the Day of Silence helps bring us closer to making anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and name-calling unacceptable in America’s schools.
I'm in middle school. Can I organize a Day of Silence at my school?
The Day of Silence can logistically be organized in any school, public or private, middle school, high school or college. However, in middle and high schools, getting support from the school administration is critical. Students should not assume that administrators will not support their efforts--even if they have not supported LGBT issues in the past--because it's always important to ask and provide information to win support.
Do I have a right to participate in the Day of Silence?
You DO have a right to participate in Day of Silence and other expressions of your opinion at a public school during non-instructional time: the breaks between classes, before and after the school day, lunchtime, and any other free times during your day. You do NOT have a right to remain silent during class time if a teacher asks you to speak. We recommend that you talk to your teachers ahead of time, tell them what you plan to do, and ask them if it would be okay for you to communicate on that day in writing. (ACLU)
How do the Day of Silence activities affect the school day?
GLSEN advises students interested in participating to discuss their intentions with their administration and teachers long before the event. The day is most successful when schools and students work together to show their commitment to ensuring safe schools for all students. Many schools allow student participation throughout the day. Some schools ask students to speak as they normally would during class and remain silent during breaks and at lunch.
There is no single way to participate and students are encouraged to take part in the way that is the most positive and uplifting for their school. Students may also participate in “Breaking the Silence” rallies, events where students come together at the day’s end to express themselves and share their experiences with members of their local communities.
What other things can I do to create an effective Day of Silence?
An important part of the Day of Silence is creating educational opportunities before and/or after the event. Many people will be affected by this event and will want to know more about the silence LGBT people and their allies face. Good follow-up events include: workshops, speakers, entertainment, or any other venue for evaluation, education and discussion.
What happens if my school doesn't support the effort?
GLSEN advises all students to secure school permission for the event. We believe that such support is critical for many reasons. We encourage students in those schools where support is unlikely to build campaigns to try and secure that support or work with their administration on compromises of activities the school will allow. We also encourage students to identify ways to participate outside of the school. Please refer to: Tips for the Last Minute Organizer or Those Whose Administration Has Said No.
The Day of Silence is one element of a larger effort to create safe schools for all students, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. Many communities, in addition to supporting the Day of Silence, host “Breaking The Silence” events, rallies, legislative lobby days, performances and more – both on the Day of Silence and all year round. You can get connected to an ongoing national effort by registering your GSA here.
What do you have to say about potential opponents to the Day of Silence?
The issue at hand is the bullying, harassment, name-calling and violence that students see and face in our schools daily. The Day of Silence is an activity created and led by students to educate their peers and bring an end to this harassment. We look forward to engaging all organizations and individuals who share The Day of Silence vision of schools free from anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment. Those who do not support the Day of Silence often protest, but rarely contribute positively to finding ways to end anti-LGBT harassment. Some individuals and groups may even organize events in response to the Day of Silence, grossly mischaracterizing and/or misunderstanding the basic purpose of the Day of Silence.
However, bringing attention to these events only adds a false credibility to their misinformation about the Day of Silence, GLSEN and the thousands of American students taking action on April 20. If you face hostile students or organizations in your school on the Day of Silence, remember to remain calm. We encourage you to not get into a debate, make gestures or get into a physical altercation. If you continue to be harassed, we encourage you to contact your GSA advisor or other ally school staff person.
Contributions are greatly appreciated. You can support the Day of Silence by making your donation to the project’s organizer, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN). For more information on how to make a donation visit GLSEN’s website: www.glsen.org/donate