>A guest post by Amena J. one of our fabulous GLSEN staff members:
This post was supposed to be a report back on GLSEN Southern Maine’s GSA Night. Wednesday the Chapter hosted an interfaith forum featuring Bishop Gene Robinson. As you can imagine the Chapter was thrilled to host an event with such an esteemed guest. I decided to fly to Portland from DC for this event. I too was excited to meet someone who has made an impact on the LGBT and faith communities.
Due to numerous travel debacles involving two planes, a bus and three states I made it to the interfaith forum 20 minutes before it was over. Frustrated and disappointed I sat and listened to the end of talks by other clergy at the forum.
Afterwards a flock of students went to Bishop Robinson for photo ops and more discussion about the speech that I never heard. I did get to meet the Bishop he shook my hand and was genuinely sympathetic to my dilemma. Bishop Robinson ended the evening with a moment of silence and closing remarks.
So what to write? As I drove to my hotel I labored over how to sum up an evening that wasn’t. After a day composed of almost 12 hours of travel and aggravation I was weary. Then it hit me. Maybe this trip was one big metaphor. It may seem cliché but sometimes we need to be reminded of a basic lesson, never give up.
On Wednesday I encountered obstacle after obstacle. It seemed the harder I tried to get to Portland the worse things got. At one point I considered heading back to DC. I’m glad I didn’t do that. Although, I did not get to hear his speech I did reach my goal of meeting Bishop Robinson. What little of the event I participated in was wonderful.
Several of you reading this blog are going to participate in the Day of Silence. Many of you have encountered some mighty struggles along the way. If you are an activist or organizer you know how hard it can be to keep going day after day. The world throws many obstacles in you path and yet you press on. Although your journey may be long and you may get weary, know that you will reach your goal.
Wishing you a wonderful Day of Silence,
>Still more stories being shared over at facebook - and I become more and more inspired by all those who are participating and supporting:
I actually did this last year before and it brought back some bad memories. For the simple fact that I wasn't speaking, people judged me, pushed me around. I didn't have a single defense for myself. My actions could not help when nobody was looking at me. To quote a book title, "I have no mouth and I must scream." It was how I felt that day. Now, I must put myself through it again to feel the pain that people go through every single day. I may be straight, but I love all people, no matter their race, gender, or sexuality. It's so sad that people treat others as if they are nothing. I hope we all can stand up with our arms braced and get through this.
>As the Day of Silence approaches we’ve been getting lots of questions and comments along two similar but distinct threads on our various websites and in our email.
1) Do I need to be silent all day? Can I communicate at all? Can I blog/tweet/facebook?
2) Being silent doesn’t help and only perpetuates the problem. We should be speaking out.
The answer to both of these is similar: being silent has been and continues to be a very powerful way to create positive dialogue around the problem of anti-LGBT bullying for many students across the country. However, each person who participates in the Day of Silence has a different way of participating.
For some, the best way to participate is by being completely silent, including not participating in online communication. For others, the best way to participate is by spending the day speaking out about the issues of LGBT bullying. Some who participate get limited approval from their schools for their participation and so can only be silent during breaks between classes. There are many ways of participation ranging from complete silence to no silence.
The point is that the DOS is a day to bring attention to the problem of anti-LGBT bullying and each person who participates must determine how they can best use, or not use, their voice to do that. If you feel you will have the deepest positive impact by remaining completely silent and have the appropriate approvals to do so then go for it. If you feel that in your situation, you can have a deeper positive impact by speaking out then that should be your way of observing. No one can make that determination but you.
Your voice, whether silent or loud, WILL make a difference this Friday and the Day of Silence will speak volumes.
>Every year after the Day of Silence we tally up the numbers of participants and supporters to share with our donors and to highlight the importance of the work that GLSEN does. Don't you want to be counted?
Students (middle, high school and college) register here.
Adults - Support our students by signing the pledge.
Help us prove that people care about ending anti-LGBT bullying.
Wear any color
Tweet the Silence
Silence your tweets
Blog the silence
Silence your blog
Whatever you do, be respectful, especially of others who are observing the Day of Silence, but bring attention to the issues of anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harrasment in schools.
>GUEST POST FROM THE ACLU:
Two things I’ve learned over the years that I’ve worked with LGBT students at the American Civil Liberties Union are that many school administrators and teachers don’t have the slightest clue about what their students’ legal rights are, and that a lot of the ones who do know go right ahead and violate students’ rights anyway because they think they can get away with it.
The only way to be sure that your school will respect and uphold your legal rights is for YOU to educate yourself about what your rights are and hold your school to its responsibility to protect and enforce them.
That’s never more true than during the Day of Silence, an annual event designed to bring attention to the bullying, harassment, and name-calling LGBT students often experience in school. Here are four things you need to know about your rights as you mark Day of Silence this year on Friday, April 15.
1. 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. If your principal or a teacher tells you otherwise, you should contact our office or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.
2. You do NOT have a right to remain silent during class time if a teacher asks you to speak. If you want to stay quiet during class on Day of Silence, we recommend that you talk with your teachers ahead of time, tell them that you plan to participate in Day of Silence and why it’s important to you, and ask them if it would be okay for you to communicate in class on that day in writing. Most teachers will probably say yes.
3. Your school is NOT required to "sponsor" Day of Silence. But Day of Silence is rarely a school-sponsored activity to begin with – it’s almost always an activity led by students. So don't be confused - just because your school isn’t officially sponsoring or participating in Day of Silence doesn’t mean that you can’t participate.
4. Students who oppose Day of Silence DO have the right to express their views, too. Like you, they must do so in a civil, peaceful way and they only have a right to do so during non-instructional time. For example, they don’t have a right to skip school on Day of Silence without any consequences, just as you don't have a right to skip school just because you don’t like what they think or say.
If you’re concerned that your school might forbid you from participating in Day of Silence, you might want to print out the ACLU's "Letter to Educators about the Day of Silence" (2-page PDF) and give it to your school administrators. Tell them they should show the letter to the school’s lawyer. The letter explains what schools' responsibilities are regarding Day of Silence.
And for more information on your rights in public schools, check out the youth and schools section of the ACLU's website.
By Chris Hampton
Youth and Program Strategist
American Civil Liberties Union
Note: If you’ve read the above and think your rights may being violated, let us know! We’ve partnered with Lambda Legal to provide speedy assistance if you’re facing resistance. Report it! and Lambda Legal will be in touch with you as soon as they can.
On the Day of Silence starting at 3 PM EST we'll be hosting a Tweet Chat LIVE! Come and share your experiences with Day of Silence organizers from across the country. Also, a crew of GLSEN staff members will be available to answer your questions.
Participation is easy!
- Click here to join the #DayofSilence Tweet Chat room.
- Make sure to click "Sign in with Twitter" in the upper right corner.
- Enter your Twitter login info.
- Join the conversation!
We're excited to hear all of your Day of Silence stories!
Guest blog post by Noel Gordon, Michigan student and former GLSEN Public Policy Intern
The Michigan Senate is poised to take a vote on legislation intended to curb school bullying and harassment. Just last week, it was reported that lawmakers laughingly refused to even consider anti-bullying protections. Elected officials, students, and advocates remained in the Capitol all night to protest this outrageous behavior. The fact that an anti-bullying bill (SB 137) is being considered at all would be reason to celebrate, especially during National Anti-Bullying Awareness Month. But only if the bill in question were actually worth supporting.
Here's why: SB 45, in its current form, lacks important reporting requirements and fails to provide clear, unambiguous protections to student populations most often targeted for bullying and harassment. This includes students of color and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students, two communities who struggles I know all too well.
A reporting requirement would be extremely helpful to capture the real experiences of LGBT students. Findings from the 2009 GLSEN National School Climate Survey revealed the kind of bullying Michigan’s LGBT students endure on a daily basis. You can read the GLSEN Michigan Research Brief here.
As a Michigan student, I am embarrassed by the fact that our legislature has yet to get a comprehensive anti-bullying bill through the legislature and to the Governor’s desk. This debate has been going on for 13 years. That’s 13 years too long for many students who continue to have their lives ruined because of our inaction.
It’s time for Michigan legislators to get serious and pass a bill that would actually address these two issues. Our state is in need of legislation that will protect students from harassment and discrimination. Michigan is one of only three states without any sort of anti-bullying law on the books.
You can learn more about what states currently have passed safer schools legislation inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity by clicking here.
Including enumerated categories of protection – such as race, class, religion, disability and sex – should be a point of consensus among Michigan senators, not contention. Comprehensive anti-bullying policies ensure that all Michigan students are protected equally in school. In fact, students in school with enumerated anti-bullying policies report less incidents of bullying and harassment overall. They also report feeling safer at school. You can read more about these findings in the 2009 GLSEN National School Climate Survey.
Michigan legislators should be doing everything they can to help make schools a safer place for all students regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. We should be setting an example for our students, not lagging so far behind.
This isn’t a Republican issue. Nor is it a Democratic issue. It’s about education and the future success of every Michigan student, which is quite frankly, no laughing matter.
>With less than 2 weeks to go, GLSEN is busy preparing for the Respect Awards - Los Angeles taking place on Friday, October 21. This special evening will raise crucial funds to support our life-changing work to create safer schools for every student regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
- Michele and Rob Reiner will accept the Lifetime Achievement Award;
- Wells Fargo (on behalf of Patricia Callahan) will accept the Commitment to Diversity & Inclusion Award;
- Rick Welts will accept the Inspiration Award;
- Chaz Bono will accept the Hero Award and;
- GLSEN will soon be announcing our Student Advocate of the Year!
"Although we do not agree with the sentiments expressed on Ms. Knox's personal Facebook page, her comments are protected by the First Amendment. The ACLU believes that the response to offensive speech is not the restriction of speech, but more speech."