– Hundreds of thousands of secondary and college students from a record number of schools are expected to participate today in GLSEN's Day of Silence to call attention to the serious problem of anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender bullying, harassment, name-calling and discrimination in schools.
A project of GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, in collaboration with the United States Student Association, the 11th annual National Day of Silence will be one of the largest student-led days of action in the country. Students at nearly 5,000 middle and high schools have already registered at www.dayofsilence.org to participate in various ways, including taking a vow of silence, wearing stickers or T-shirts and passing out speaking cards explaining their decision not to speak.
"Every day I go to school and I notice the same thing that everyone notices – students saying 'that’s so gay' and stuff like that," said Ashleigh Pippin, a 17-year-old junior from Sanderson High School in Raleigh, N.C. "I wish I would say something every time, but it’s hard to stand up and say don’t do that every time someone makes an offensive comment.
"The Day of Silence is the one day I can stand up, without having to say something every five seconds, and make a difference."
Every student has a right to feel safe in school, and the Day of Silence is about changing the pervasive behavior that LGBT students and their allies experience on a consistent basis. As recently as two weeks ago, six students in Colorado harassed a student with anti-gay slurs as he walked home from school. One of the six students threw an object at him, breaking his nose and injuring him badly enough to require surgery.
"Students across the country are acting in solidarity today during the Day of Silence. These students – LGBT and straight – are an example of youth taking constructive action by coming together with a positive message," said GLSEN Founder and Executive Director Kevin Jennings. "As President Bush said after the tragedy at Virginia Tech: ‘Schools should be places of safety, sanctuary and learning.’ These students are doing their part to accomplish that goal."
Bullying and harassment based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and how masculine or feminine a student is are two of the top three reasons students said their peers are harassed in school, along with physical appearance, according to a 2005 Harris Interactive study, From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America.
Additionally, nearly two-thirds of LGBT students (64%) reported feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation in GLSEN’s 2005 National School Climate Survey.
The Day of Silence was created by University of Virginia students in 1996 and became a national event in 1997. GLSEN became the event’s national sponsor in 2001.
GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established nationally in 1995, 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 on GLSEN’s educational resources, public policy agenda, student organizing programs, research, public education or development initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.