NEW YORK, N.Y. — Hundreds of thousands of students from every state and at least 7,500 middle and high schools participated in the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN) 15th annual Day of Silence today to bring attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment.
Students from hundreds of colleges also participated.
Students typically participate by remaining silent throughout the school day, unless asked to speak in class. The Day of Silence illustrates the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment on LGBT students, their allies and those like Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, who did not identify as gay, but was bullied with anti-gay slurs.
Carl took his life a year ago this past month after enduring constant harassment — he was 11 years old.
“I’m participating in the Day of Silence because it’s very important to realize the silence and pain many students bear,” texted Dominique Walker, Carl’s sister, and a junior from Springfield, Mass. “Bullying and harassment in school is a huge problem that needs to be stopped, and by keeping silent we can feel the agony of many students.”
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 Harris Interactive report commissioned by GLSEN. The top reason was physical appearance.
Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT youth (86.2 percent) reported being harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation, and 3 out of 5 LGBT youth (60.8 percent) felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, according to GLSEN’s 2007 National School Climate Survey of more than 6,000 LGBT students.
”The Day of Silence means a lot to me because I know that I have been silenced by bullies,” texted Adrien Arnao, a junior from Washburn, Wis. “A lot of my friends have, too. Bringing awareness to bullying is one of the most important things we can do.”
The Day of Silence originated at the University of Virginia in 1996 and has grown each year, with GLSEN coming on as national sponsor in 2001.
“The Day of Silence makes visible the efforts of amazing student leaders all over the country who are working to make their schools safer and more welcoming for all students,” GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard said. “The courage of these students has built this event into a powerful annual reminder of the urgent need for action to address anti-LGBT behavior and bias in our schools.”
To bring attention to this problem and explain their participation in the Day of Silence, students often hand out speaking cards on the Day of Silence 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.
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> Judge Christopher C. Piazza of the Pulaski County Circuit Court has struck down a controversial law that bans any unmarried person who lives with a partner from serving as an adoptive or foster parent in the state of Arkansas. The ACLU filed its complaint against the law, known as Act 1, in December 2008. Judge Piazza held that the law casts an unreasonably broad net and did not “serve the State’s interest in determining what is in the best interest of the child.” He also noted that he was troubled by the fact that the law targeted gay people. The state of Arkansas is expected to appeal the decision.
> Six military personnel handcuffed themselves to the North Lawn fence at the White House April 20 to protest the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. One of the service members, Army Lt. Dan Choi, called on President Obama to “take bold action, to show firm resolve and real leadership.” Choi protested alongside Capt. Jim Pietrangelo II, Petty Officer Larry Whitt, Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen, Cadet Mara Boyd and Cpl. Evelyn Thomas. Each of the 6 demonstrators were taken into police custody. According to White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, President Obama will wait for the results of a Pentagon study on DADT before pushing Congress to vote on a repeal. The study is due Dec. 1.
> On April 21, more than 200 signatories including the nation’s leading LGBT organizations, along with allies in the faith, labor and civil rights communities, sent a letter to members of the U.S. Congress calling for swift passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. If enacted, ENDA would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
u The National Center for Lesbian Rights has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington challenging the discriminatory practices of the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Association (NAGAAA). The lawsuit alleges that NAGAAA violated Washington state laws governing discrimination in public accommodations and state consumer protections by implementing and enforcing a “two heterosexuals per team” cap during the 2008 Gay Softball World Series. : :