Every April since 1996, hundreds of thousands of students of all beliefs, backgrounds and sexual orientations participate in GLSEN’s (Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network) national Day of Silence. The event brings attention to anti-LGBTQ name-calling, bullying and harassment and effective responses in schools. The goal of the Day of Silence is to make schools safer for all students, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.
This year’s Day of Silence is on April 21, and one Newport News high school has plans for a rally and observance. Kristi Jackson, faculty sponsor of the Warwick High School’s gay-straight alliance has worked with her GSA members and school leaders to put the event together.
Said Jackson,”Slurs such as faggot, dyke, and tranny are still all too commonplace in school. The Day of Silence is an example of students and faculty working together to bring attention to harassment experienced by LGBTQ and straight students alike.”
In a Harris Interactive study on bullying, students said two of the top three reasons students are harassed in school are actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender expression. Additionally, nearly 9 out of 10 LGBTQ students experience harassment at school.
Jackson and her GSA members hope to attract the attention not only of fellow students but of the community. The rally, entitled “Breaking the Silence” will bring together LGBTQ and allied speakers such as Newport News school board member Shelly Simonds, Newport New Police LGBTQ Liaison Jessica Pennington, Carolyn Caywood, director of PFLAG of Hampton Roads and Clay Porter from the LGBT Center of Hampton Roads.
As the national umbrella organization responsible for the Day of Silence, GLSEN advises students interested in participating in the Day of Silence to discuss their intentions with their administration and teachers long before the event. According to their web site, “The day is most successful when schools and students work together to show their commitment to ensuring safe schools for all students.
In 1996, students at the University of Virginia organized the first Day of Silence in response to a class assignment on non-violent protests with over 150 students participating. In 1997, organizers took their effort national and nearly 100 colleges and universities participated. In 2001, GLSEN became the official organizational sponsor for the event.
Since then the event has reached students in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as those as far away as New Zealand, Singapore and Russia. More than 10,000 students register their Day of Silence participation with GLSEN every year. And public figures such as Laverne Cox, Jim Parsons, RuPaul, Tyler Oakley, Kirsten Vangsness, Kristin Chenoweth, Billy Bean, Vicky Beeching, Steve Grand, Chely Wright, and many others have publicly supported students participating in the GLSEN Day of Silence.
WANT TO GO?
Day of Silence: Breaking the Silence
Friday, April 21, 3 – 6 PM
John B. Todd Stadium
12465 Warwick Blvd.