Tomorrow, April 19th, students across the country will participate in the 17th annual Day of Silence. The Day will was started at the University of Virginia in 1996 with 150 participating students. In 1997, over 100 colleges and universities participated, in 2001 GLSEN took over as national sponsor and by 2008 nearly 800 schools across the country participated. Many schools across the country have registered for this year's DOS. Students who participate remain silent all day to show their support for the thousands of students who are silenced everyday by bullying and harassment for their perceived or actual sexuality or gender identity.
Silence in numbers can be loud. Sometimes the number of people who are silent on the DOS takes a community by surprise. It opens a dialogue between the people who were silent, who in doing so came out for equality and inclusion, and the people who were not silent, perhaps out of fear or ignorance. The work doesn't end with the breaking of the silence. The Day of Silence website tells students:
"An important part of the Day of Silence is creating educational opportunities before and/or after the event. Many people will be affected by this event and will want to know more about the silence LGBT people and their allies face. Good follow-up events include: workshops, speakers, entertainment, or any other venue for evaluation, education and discussion."
GLSEN is encouraging people to take Selfies for Silence (like these three, from GLAAD Digital Content Manager Brendan Davis and Interns Mari Haywood and Todd Clayton) and post them to GLSEN's facebook page.
Although students do not have the right to refuse to participate in a class if a teacher requests it, students absolutely have the right to participate in the DOS during non-instructional time. If school officials adamantly refuse the Day of Silence, students are encouraged to reach out to GLSEN.