NEW YORK, April 16, 2010 - Hundreds of thousands of students from every state and at least 7,500 middle and high schools participated in GLSEN's 15th annual Day of Silence today to bring attention to anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) 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 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%) reported being harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation, and 3 out of 5 LGBT youth (60.8%) 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.
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN's research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.