Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth across the nation are making a statement today through the annual Day of Silence organized by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. The Day of Silence encourages students not to speak in order to raise awareness about anti-LGBT bullying in schools.
Students spearheaded the first National Day of Silence 15 years ago at the University of Virginia and received such a positive response that they decided to take the campaign to the national level. GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) became its official sponsor in 2001 and began developing Leadership Teams to support local organizers, donating staff, volunteers, and funding to expand its impact. The yearly event is now viewed as a way for students to show solidarity for victims of bullying and “to draw attention to the ‘silencing effects’” of anti-LGBT harassment. It is consistent with similar projects that GLSEN promotes throughout the rest of the year, such as providing guidance to start Gay-Straight Alliances and GLSEN chapters at local middle and high schools, developing research on the effects of harassment, and creating campaigns such as “Think B4 You Speak,” which discourages youth from using anti-LGBT language.
Hundreds of thousands of students are expected to be participating in this year’s Day of Silence, and the Advocate has already reported some of the results, both positive and negative. Although many students are succeeding in their efforts to raise visibility, some are met with resistance. 30 students at one school were called into an administrator’s office for their involvement in the Day of Silence, and asked to go home. Lambda Legal has provided a resource for students to learn about their legal rights in the context of their activism on this day.
GLAAD is committed to the safety of LGBT students in their schools and community. We recently honored Nikki Peet with a Special Recognition Award at the GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles for her determination and persistence to create a Gay-Straight Alliance at her high school in Corpus Christi, Texas, despite opposition from school administrators. After receiving GLAAD media trainings and guidance, she organized a day-long protest, created a Change.org petition that gained over 55,000 signatures, and successfully got the school board to reverse their decision and approve the group in March. School support systems and education about the harms of harassment are more important than ever, as reports by GLSEN and the National Center for Transgender Equality reflect shocking levels of bullying towards LGBT and LGBT-perceived youth.
GLAAD applauds GLSEN on its leadership throughout the Day of Silence and will continue to monitor media coverage of different events around the country.