April 13, 2011

>As you’ve all seen, there are some groups and some individuals out there who are doing all they can to detract from the purpose of the Day of Silence. Some of these groups are encouraging parents to pull students out of school, organizing events to counter the Day of Silence, or protesting schools and community centers hosting Day of Silence activities. Some individuals have been visiting the Day of Silence pages on Facebook and elsewhere to share hateful comments.

Here are a couple of tips for you if you find yourself facing this type of opposition during your Day of Silence organizing:

  1. Stay cool: It’s difficult to be challenged, and some that oppose the Day of Silence may say hurtful things. Relax. Breathe. Remember that you’re participating in DOS to make a difference, not to start fights.
  2. Step away: The Day of Silence is about starting conversations, but often those strongly opposing DOS are not truly interested in genuine conversation. Some are only interested in provoking you. In these cases it’s best to walk away and not respond. Don’t let anyone detract from the purpose!
  3. Be respectful: The Day of Silence is about ending anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in school. To do this, it's important to treat people with respect. Treat people who oppose the DOS not as they treat you but with the same respect you hope to be treated with. Remember, the Day of Silence is a peaceful demonstration!
  4. Share The Four Truths: Often people make decisions about the Day of Silence without getting accurate information about the action. This document highlights four often misunderstood elements of the Day of Silence. Print it out and provide it to those who may be confused as to what DOS is for.
  5. Report it: If there are people who are bullying or harassing you as part of their opposition, you should report it—to school officials, online authorities, your parents—immediately. In school, make sure to notify a supportive staff member, and ask for their assistance as you follow up on the status of your report.
  6. Share your story: Stay connected with other organizers about your experience. Talk to your student club or tell your story on the Facebook Day of Silence Page and Twitter.
  7. Contact us: If you experience extreme amounts of opposition, face bullying and harassment please fill out this form to let us know. Someone from our partner Lambda Legal will be in touch to assist you.
  8. Spread the word: Share this post with other organizers so that we can all work together to focus our attention on the things that matter to make change.

We hope you have an effective, safe, and fun Day of Silence!

April 13, 2011

>Cross posted from Feminist Teacher: educating for equity and justice

Elizabeth J. Meyer is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Education at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. She is the author of two books: Gender, bullying, and harassment: Strategies to end sexism and homophobia in schools (2009) and Gender and sexual diversity in schools (2010). She blogs regularly for Psychology Today and the Freire International Project for Critical Pedagogy.

I was excited to get the invitation to write this guest post about the upcoming Day of Silence (DOS) on Friday, April 15, 2011. This is an important event that is taking place in high schools and universities across the country and I was asked to offer some suggestions for educators on how best to support students who have decided to participate in this event.

What is the Day of Silence?

This somewhat controversial event began in 1996 at the University of Virginia when a group of students chose to remain silent for one day to call attention to the anti-LGBT name-calling and harassment at their school. In 2008, over 8,000 middle and high schools registered with GLSEN (The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) to participate. Although it was originally a grassroots, student-initiated event, GLSEN has provided their infrastructure to create educational resources and organizing ideas to their network of chapters and via their website to support widespread participation. There has been backlash in some communities against this event, but students and teachers who have participated indicate that it is a non-confrontational, yet empowering way to highlight these issues in a school community.

What is the controversy?

The Alliance Defense Fund, supported by the Southern Baptist Convention Press promotes a Day of Truth, now the Day of Dialogue, in response to the “homosexual agenda” of public schools participating in DOS activities. In Day of Truth/Day of Dialogue activities, generally scheduled for the day after DOS programs, students are encouraged to express an opposing viewpoint. In 2006, ADF claims students in over 700 schools, participated in Day of Truth activities (Janofsky, 2005). One of the more popular tee-shirts includes the message “Homosexuality is Shameful” along with other religious based anti-gay messages. Some school leaders’ response to this show of intolerance is to ban the shirts from school grounds.

The American Liberties Institute supported the efforts of James Nixon against a middle school for not allowing his son to wear a tee-shirt stating, among other things, “Homosexuality is a sin!” (Nixon v. Northern Local School District Board of Education, 2005). The Southern District Court of Ohio granted an injunction prohibiting enforcement of the tee-shirt ban.

In a similar case, Tyler Harper was suspended for wearing a “Homosexuality is Shameful” tee-shirt (Harper v. Poway, 2006). The principal considered Tyler’s message to be “inflammatory.” Poway High School has been the scene of several altercations and incidents surrounding DOS events. In fact, Tyler admitted that he had been confronted by a group of students protesting the shirt that very morning. Further, a San Diego Superior Court jury had recently awarded damages of $175,000 and $125,000 to two former Poway High School students because of a failure to protect them from peer sexual orientation harassment (Littlefield, 2005). The 9th Circuit Court concluded that Tyler’s tee-shirt did collide with the rights of other students. As such, it was proper for the district to ban the wearing of the tee-shirt.

Balancing law and pedagogy: What are educators to do?

Although there are contradictory legal precedents on how to address these situations in schools, the DOS can provide great teachable moments for educators. Teachers, counselors, and administrators can use it as an opportunity to promote dialogue around civic engagement, the role of allies in promoting equality rights, as well as bullying and harassment related to homophobia and transphobia. I wrote a blog post about stopping bullying based on gender and sexuality that can provide some talking points for teachers.

In a democratic nation, it is very important for schools to teach and promote civic engagement. One important element of this is to be able to understand the issues in your community, draw conclusions based on your knowledge and experiences, and then take action to improve the issues identified. The DOS is a wonderful example of students participating in democracy and expressing their concern in a respectful and relevant way in order to encourage change in their school communities. For more information on students’ legal rights, you should read this guide from Lambda Legal.

Issues of solidarity are also important in social change movements. It is valuable for students to learn about ally work and what it means to help advocate for the needs of a silenced minority group.

5 Ways Educators can teach through the “Day of Silence”

  1. Make an announcement at the beginning of each class that you are aware of the event, and that you will ask students participating to contribute to class in other ways (writing on the board, yes/no signs, reflective writing piece, etc.).
  2. Break the silence around LGBT issues in the curriculum. Find some relevant way to address LGBT invisibility in your course content. Either discuss the absence of the topic in your course texts, or prepare a lesson that explicitly addresses issues related to sexual orientation, gender identity, LGBT rights, or notable contributions by LGBT people in history (arts, sports, literature, math, science, etc.).
  3. Show your support by wearing a “Day of Silence” T-shirt. You can make your own or order one online. Although you may not be able to maintain your silence all day long, the visible show of solidarity with the students can be a powerful one. I did this when I was working at the University of New Hampshire in 2003, and many students expressed their appreciation for this gesture.
  4. Ask your students to write a reflection essay on the reasons they chose or chose not to participate. This can help teach critical thinking, logical reasoning, and encourage them to consider their position on bullying and harassment as well as LGBT equality rights and the role that each individual can play in maintaining or challenging the status-quo.
  5. Work together with the student council and the administration at your school to plan a post-Day of Silence assembly and debrief. Invite outside speakers to be on a panel that can address topics such as: bullying and harassment, the invisibility of LGBT individuals and history from the curriculum, current local issues related to safety and equality for LGBT people, legal issues related to freedom of expression in the school community, and/or separation of church and state (particularly if Day of Truth/Day of Dialogue events are planned).

I hope you find these ideas helpful – please post questions or responses about how things went at your schools and universities on the Day of Silence this Friday.

Readers can visit Meyers’s webpage, follow her on Twitter, and read her blog posts at Psychology Today.

- Elizabeth J. Meyer

April 12, 2011

>Tweet, not speak.
On the Day of Silence. Friday, April 15 we want to get as many people as possible to tweet about DOS as much as you can to help spread the word about its importance. Here's how you can participate:

1) Sign Up on Twitter! It's easy to get a Twitter account, just CLICK HERE to get started.

2) Get a Twibbon! CLICK HERE to add the stylish Day of Silence twibbon for your Twitter icon to let others know that you're supporting the Day of Silence.

3) Use the #DayofSilence Hashtag! Hashtags are words starting with # and create easily searchable posts. It makes it so that Day of Silence supporters can find your tweet! Each time you update, be sure to include #DayofSilence somewhere in the tweet.

4) Tweet all day on April 15! You can tweet about anything Day of Silence related. Tweet what you’re doing for DOS. Tweet how many students are participating at your school. Tweet the different ways you’re getting support. Tweet if you’re holding a Breaking the Silence event. Tweet about how many buttons you’re wearing. Tweet about the reactions of your classmates. Just keep the tweets coming!

IMPORTANT! If you are a student in middle or high school, make sure you only tweet during times that your school permits. Tweet in the morning before school starts, at lunch (if allowed) and especially after school.

Tweet Chat LIVE Friday!
We’ll have a team tweet-in on Friday afternoon in solidarity with all the hundreds of thousands of students participating in the Day of Silence. We’ll do our best to keep up with your questions. Stay tuned to @DayofSilence on Twitter for more information!

How does Twitter work? Learn more with this video.

April 11, 2011

>GLSEN Student Ambassador Red O. shares their story of coming out and the importance of the Day of Silence.


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With fear, pride, and a shaky voice I was forced to pull my self out of my comfortable yet crammed up closet. The closet I had been a refugee in for as long as I could remember. Their reaction was less violent and dramatic than I had expected. No glass was shattered, but something inside me broke by their reaction. "Stay quiet about this!" my mother demanded. "Don't you dare tell anyone else about you being like THAT." Like that? She could not even repeat what I had just told her. A simple three letter word that I usually said happily and proud had been turned into a sick, unmentionable word. Her words were painful, but the look she gave me could kill. "You are confused; You will change your mind when you find the right guy!" she continued as tears rolled down my cheek. I tried to speak but the words just choked me. Tears were all I could release. I stood there frozen as the woman, that held me in her arms when I was younger and put band-aids on my boo-boos, spit hate at me. That night, as I sat in my room both relieved and sad, I heard her say that I was not the child she expected I would be and that she was very disappointed.

Silence! That is what she wanted from me; her loud kid that gets in trouble for being overly hyper and talkative. But you know what? No one can make me feel bad for being myself! I am proud and no one will take that away! You may be able to repress me and keep my mouth shut for a while, but not forever! Soon I will be free to skip in the daisy fields and scream, "I am GAY and proud!" I will fly without a muzzle away from here!

I am lucky though. While I have only been temporarily silenced, others silence is more permanent. Everyday LGBT teens are silenced by their peers, parents, and other authorities. Some are silenced for moments, some for years, others for life. Some are bullied into silence, others are murdered into it. This Day of Silence, I will show support to those who have been muzzled in fear by giving up my voice for a day. It is important that we all stand together to make the echo of silence roar through our communities. Let kids know that they are not alone and that some people really do care.


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Stay tuned for more Day of Silence stories. If you would like to share your story, email us at info@dayofsilence.org.

April 11, 2011

>The Day of Silence, Friday, April 15, is fast approaching and it's time to get organizing! Each week we'll post tips to help you plan your Day of Silence activities.

Goals for April 11-15

Day of Silence is almost here! It’s time to pump up the excitement and to make sure everyone is prepared!

  • Spread the word: You've worked for weeks to get the word out about the Day of Silence, so keep it going! Make sure students, teachers and administrators in your school know that the Day of Silence is happening and what to expect from participants. Notifying people early is the key to a successful and effective Day of Silence!
  • Be visible: Red is the official DOS color, so if everyone participating wears red you'll be sure to stand out. And don’t forget t-shirts, buttons, stickers, face-paint—these are all ways you can help draw attention to your action.
  • Be respectful: The Day of Silence is about ending anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in school. To do this, it's important to treat people with respect. There are likely people at your school who will try to challenge your silence, your activities or your beliefs. Treat these people not as they treat you but with the same respect you hope to be treated with. Remember, the Day of Silence is a peaceful demonstration!
  • Know your rights: Remember, you DO have the right to remain silent between classes and before/after school. You do NOT have the right to ignore your teachers' requests during instructional time. If a teacher asks for you to speak during class, do it! Please don’t put your education at risk. Review this document, which outlines some of your rights during the Day of Silence. (Lambda Legal PDF Download)


If you have any questions or ideas, or if you want to tell us what you’re planning for your Day of Silence please email us at info@dayofsilence.org.

And don't forget to join the conversation on the Day of Silence Page on Facebook and @DayofSilence on Twitter.

April 07, 2011

>ACLU’s Don’t Filter Me Project

Did you know that it’s illegal for public schools to use their web filtering software to deny students access to positive, affirming information about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues while allowing access to anti-LGBT websites? The American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project, along with the Yale Law School LGBT Litigation Clinic, is asking public high school students throughout the U.S. to check out your high school’s web filters to make sure you’re not being blocked from information you have a right to have!

CLICK HERE to learn how to check and report on your school’s filtering.

For more info, check out this great video:

April 06, 2011

>Can a teacher tell me to speak during class? What are my rights when I participate in the Day of Silence?

According to Lambda Legal, “Under the Constitution, public schools must respect students’ right to free speech. The right to speak includes the right not to speak, as well as the right to wear buttons or T-shirts expressing support for a cause…”

However, this right to free speech does not extend to classroom time. “If a teacher tells a student to answer a question during class, the student generally doesn’t have a constitutional right to refuse to answer.” We remind participants that students who talk with their teachers ahead of time are more likely to be able to remain silent during class.

Know your rights! Read The Freedom to Speak (Or Not) by Lambda Legal to learn about your legal rights to participate in the Day of Silence.

Report It! Are you experiencing resistance to your Day of Silence organizing or activities from your school administrators or faculty? If you are a student in a U.S. K-12 school and feel like your rights are not being respected, please click here to let us know!

April 05, 2011

>Day of Silence Reporter and GLSEN Student Ambassador Nowmee S. shares this video about why the Day of Silence is an important action to address anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in K-12 schools. Check it out!


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Stay tuned for more Day of Silence content from Nowmee and other student reporters! If you would like to submit your story, email us at info@dayofsilence.org.

April 04, 2011

>The Day of Silence, Friday, April 15, is fast approaching and it's time to get organizing! Each week we'll post tips to help you plan your Day of Silence activities.

Goals for April 4-8

The more support you have, the more effective your event can be. Continue talking with teachers, students and community members about ways they can support your Day of Silence activities.

  • Notify Faculty: You’ve already connected with supportive teachers; now it’s time to let all staff know. Give each staff member a letter explaining what to expect on the Day of Silence. Include the contact people for the event, including the supportive staff member on your Team. Remember to be open and available to questions and concerns about the day.
  • Participant Meeting: This meeting is for everyone who intends on participating in the Day of Silence. Talk with the group about their expectations, goals, fears and hopes for the event. Staying silent for the Day isn’t easy, so it’s good to allow students to practice how to respond to questions or resistance from students and faculty. Try using the Concentric Circles Activity in Jump-Start Guide #1.
  • Back to the Press: Send your Press Release to local news media again now that Day of Silence is around the corner.
  • Make new posters: If you put up a new set of fliers and posters around the school it will cause people to take notice a second time.
  • And don’t forget to schedule a Team meeting for next week!

If you have any questions or ideas, or if you want to tell us what you’re planning for your Day of Silence please email us at info@dayofsilence.org.

And don't forget to join the conversation on the Day of Silence Facebook Page and @DayofSilence on Twitter.

March 31, 2011

>GLSEN is proud to honor Women's History Month by celebrating contributions of women to the LGBT and safe schools movements. Throughout March we will be recognizing heroes who have made significant contributions to the LGBT and safe schools movements. Click here for more information, and keep reading all month long for new additions!


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Elizabeth Duthinh (b. 1990), a junior at Brown University, has been a student leader and LGBT advocate for almost seven years. As a high school freshman, Elizabeth was shocked to see the anti-LGBT bias at her school and became involved with the school’s gay-straight alliance. She was home schooled during her sophomore year and became more involved in community groups, including her local PFLAG chapter. In 2006 Elizabeth applied for and was accepted to GLSEN’s National Student Leadership Team and attended several GLSEN student leader summits to learn the skills necessary to start a community LGBT youth group. She used her newly found leadership skills to reinvigorate the GSA at the private high school she attended her junior and senior years. As one of the co-presidents of the GSA, she developed an LGBT inclusive health workshop for the school, which is still part of the school’s required curriculum today. Elizabeth also arranged for her GSA to attend a lobby day sponsored by Equality Maryland, where GSA members advocated for an LGBT-inclusive safe schools policy. The law was passed a year later and many state legislators credit Elizabeth and her GSA as having played a major role in its passage. Elizabeth is now a part of GLSEN’s national advisory board and continues to mentor student leaders from her hometown on implementing the new safe schools legislation. She is also involved in the LGBT community at Brown University, where she majors in Public Policy, and has been a driving force for transgender inclusion at the school.
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We want to know who your heroes are! If you know a woman who has contributed to the LGBT and safe schools movement, post about them on the Gay-Straight Alliances Facebook page. You can also tweet your heroes to @DayofSilence using the #GLSENWHM hash tag!

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