” What is the Day of Silence®?
The Day of Silence (www.dayofsilence.org), a project of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), is a student-led day of action when concerned students, from middle school to college, take some form of a vow of silence to bring attention to the name-calling, bullying and harassment — in effect, the silencing — experienced by LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) students and their allies. This year’s Day of Silence will be held in memory of Lawrence King.
Who was Lawrence King?
Lawrence King was a 15-year-old student from Oxnard, California, who was shot and killed in class on February 12 by a 14-year-old classmate because of King’s sexual orientation and gender expression. The hate crime received little media attention but has served as a rallying cry for the need to address anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment. Organizers have registered more than 100 vigils across the country in remembrance of King at www.rememberinglawrence.org.
The goal of the Day of Silence is to inspire change so that such a tragedy and others like it never happen again.” (http://www.dayofsilence.org/content/getinformation.html)
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. For more information see: ‘How To Get What You Want With An Ask’ [PDF]” (http://www.dayofsilence.org/content/getinformation.html)
“The History of the Day of Silence®
Founded in 1996, the Day of Silence has become the largest single student-led action towards creating safer schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. From the first-ever Day of Silence at the University of Virginia in 1996, to the organizing efforts in over 1,900 middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities across the country in 2002, its textured history reflects its diversity in both numbers and reach.
Here’s a brief history.
1996 – The Day of Silence is born. Students organized the first Day of Silence, its original name, at the University of Virginia. With over 150 students participating, those involved felt it was a great success. The Day of Silence received extensive local press coverage and a positive response from the UVA community members, motivating Maria Pulzetti to take the Day of Silence nationally.
1997 – From one, to one hundred, National Day of Silence takes off With a web page and much dedication, Pulzetti and then 19-year-old Jessie Gilliam, developed the project to be used in schools across the country. It was renamed the National Day of Silence, and that year nearly 100 colleges and universities participated. Some schools in Australia heard about the project and modeled a similar day for Australian schools.
1998 – The Day keeps growing, the Project begins Pulzetti and Gilliam realized they could not expand the National Day of Silence alone, so they organized a team of regional coordinators who could assist schools better by working with and understanding local networks. Expanding from a one-day vow of silence to include additional actions and educational events, the Day of Silence was officially inaugurated. That year, for the first time in a recognized number, students in high schools joined the organizing efforts, helping double the number of participating schools to over 200.
1999-2001 – More people, more time, a message of unity sets in Through the sponsorship of Advocates for Youth, Gilliam worked part-time over the summer of 1999 to maintain and expand the Day of Silence. A first in the project’s history, a team of volunteers met for a weekend in Boston to discuss strategy and develop future plans towards assisting schools. The Day of Silence continued to support high schools, colleges and universities around the country with volunteers led by then 18-year-old Chloe Palenchar, as the National Project Coordinator. Over 300 high schools participated that year.
2001 – Day of Silence; still growing, still strong Chris Tuttle, GLSEN’s National Student Organizer, Gilliam and Palenchar developed a proposal to provide the Day of Silence with new funding, staff, volunteers and an official organizational sponsor, GLSEN. To ensure its success, GLSEN developed a first-ever Leadership Team of high school students to support local high school organizers around the country and a partnership with the United States Student Association, to ensure colleges and universities receive equal support.
2002 – Making noise, making history In what has become the largest single student-led action towards creating safer schools, the April 10th Day of Silence was organized by students in more than 1,900 schools across the country, with estimated participation of more than 100,000 students. Representative Eliot Engel introduces the first ever resolution on the Day of Silence in Congress, which received support of 29 co-signers; additionally, Governor Gray Davis of California issued an official proclamation making April 10, 2002 the National Day of Silence. Local Day of Silence® organizing efforts appear in over fifty media stories across the country, including USA Today, MSNBC, CNN, Voice of America and a live broadcast on NPR. Breaking the Silence rallies are organized with tremendous success in Albany, NY, Kalamazoo, MI, Missoula, MT, Ft. Lauderdale & Sarasota, FL, Eugene, OR, Boulder, CO and Washington DC, among other places.
Today – 2008 – This year’s Day of Silence on April 25 will be held in memory of Lawrence King, a 15-year-old eighth-grade student in Oxnard, California, was shot and killed by a 14-year-old classmate because of his sexual orientation and gender expression. Hundreds of thousands of students are expected to participate in this year’s Day of Silence. Their efforts will be supported by hundreds of community-based “Breaking the Silence” events at the end of the day. Together, concerned students will create a powerful call to action in order to prevent future tragedies.
There are simple steps that all schools can take to make schools safer for all students, to end the endemic name-calling and harassment that LGBT students and their allies face every day. We need to act now so that Lawrence King and the countless others who endure anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment will not be forgotten, and so that we can create an enduring legacy of safer schools for all in their names.
Students will hand out “Speaking Cards” which say:
“Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence, a national youth movement bringing attention to the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies in schools. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by name-callinmg, bullying and harassment. I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward fighting these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today. What are you going to do to end the silence?”
Has the Day of Silence been successful?
In past years, more than 500,000 students at nearly 4,000 K-12 schools, colleges and universities organized Day of Silence events. These numbers make the Day of Silence one of the largest student-led actions in the United States. The event has drawn significant attention to LGBT issues in schools over the years. For example, GLSEN spokespersons have appeared on national media outlets and there has always been extensive local media coverage from coast to coast, with numerous interviews with students.” (http://www.dayofsilence.org/content/getinformation.html)
Opposition to Day of Silence
“In 2005, the Alliance Defense Fund began sponsoring a yearly counter-protest called the Day of Truth. It encourages students to share with classmates their view that homosexuality is an undesirable behavior that can be changed. About 7000 students participated in the 2007 Day of Truth.
Other organizations, including the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, Mission America, Traditional Values Coalition, Americans for Truth, and Liberty Counsel, opposed the Day of Silence in 2008 by forming a coalition urging parents to keep their kids home on the DOS if their school was observing it. At least one school saw more than a third of its students skip school on that school’s DOS in 2008. The Rev. Ken Hutcherson, the principal supporter of those who skipped school, said, “We want education, not indoctrination.” Previously, complaints were made that, “the two previous Days of Silence … had coerced participation and subjected to harassment students who wanted to stay neutral.” In another locality, a student said, “I really am uncomfortable with that stuff, and I thought it was wrong they were going to have a gay day and we can’t pray.”
Legally, schools cannot be penalized for refusing to observe the Day of Silence.[clarify] Similarly, students have a constitutional right to participate in the Day of Silence, though they must speak if called on by a teacher.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_of_Silence#Events)
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Members of Pride, Kristofer Wilhelmsen, a sophomore marketing major, and Tessa Stouffer, a freshman music education major, lay in the middle of the south quad Wednesday morning for an hour-long protest in support of the “Day of Silence.” Carrie Hollis/The Daily Eastern News
Kristofer Wilhelmsen lay in the middle of the south quad, wearing sunglasses and all black. He was not relaxing in the sun Wednesday morning, but protesting with duct tape covering his mouth. The tape read, “faggot.” Four other members of Eastern’s Pride chapter protested with Wilhelmsen, a sophomore marketing major, showing their support for the Day of Silence. (0) comments
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