Last Friday, thousands of schools across the country participated in the #DayofSilenceorganized by GLSEN (pronounced “glisten” and stands for the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network). The goal of the annual Day of Silence is to make schools safer for all students, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBTQ students report being harassed at school and nearly a third report missing at least a day of school in the past month out of fear for their personal safety. The Day of Silence aims to bring attention to this problem, let students who experience such bullying know that they are not alone, and ask schools to take action to end bullying.
The Day of Silence first started more than twenty years ago as a student project at the University of Virginia. In a course on nonviolent protests, undergraduate students Maria Pulzetti and Jesse Gilliam were assigned to create a form of nonviolent protest for an issue that needed more attention. As described by NBC Out, they came up with the idea of a Day of Silence “to protest the silencing impact of anti-LGBTQ bias and violence.” It quickly caught on and spread to nearly a hundred college campuses the following year, and was later taken on by GLSEN in 2001 as the official national sponsor.
According to GLSEN’s Executive Director, more than 10,000 students register their participation every year, helping to spread the message of the Day of Silence to hundreds of thousands of students. This year, several celebrities joined in to help show support for the LGBTQ community, including Sia, Lance Bass, and Julianne Moore to name a few.
— sia (@Sia) April 21, 2017
This event can be quite a powerful experience for the students involved. “Seeing people at my school participate in Day of Silence made me feel less alone,” as described by an LGBTQ youth. Many schools utilized their GSAs (Gay-Straight Alliance clubs) to promote the event with reasons to be silent:
Take action today by sending a letter to your Governor who has the power to protect the LGBTQ community in our schools. Also, if you identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, take the 2017 National School Climate Survey. The data gathered here helps GLSEN advocate to policymakers for the right of all students to be treated with respect in their schools. The survey is completely anonymous and the information has helped many students in the past advocate with their teachers and principals for safer schools for LGBTQ students. If you’ve experienced discrimination at your school, claim your rights with the Office for Civil Rights.