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Volume 35
Issue 16
 
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Silent protest takes aim at bullying, harassment of LGBT youth
Silent protest takes aim at bullying, harassment of LGBT youth
125 schools in 110 Washington cities participate in Day of Silence

by Lisa Walls - SGN Contributing Writer

High school students from around the country participated in the National Day of Silence on Wednesday, April 18, in an effort to call attention to the bullying, name calling, and discrimination Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) students experience in schools. More than 3,000 schools registered to participate, including over 125 schools in Washington State.

This 11th annual event was one of the largest student-run days of action in the country; it was organized by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students, in collaboration with the United States Student Association.

Students take a vow of silence and then wear stickers or pass out cards to explain why theyre not speaking. Neil Lequia, a Running Start student at Bellevue Community College (BCC), broke his vow of silence for 20 minutes on Wednesday, long enough to talk to reporter Phyllis Fletcher of KUOW. Before he became a Running Start student, he walked the hallways of Mt. Si High School, in Snoqualmie, where he endured harassment.

People I didnt even know called me faggot and homo, said Neil. I was the only openly Gay kid. The day I went to the counselors office to get my Running Start paperwork signed so I could attend BCC, someone told me to get my Gay ass out of here.

Since leaving Mt. Si, Neil said he looks forward to school each morning. His grades improved. The environment at BCC is a lot nicer. Theres more diversity. People dont look twice at me, he said.

GLSEN Washington State, the local chapter of GLSEN, promoted the Day of Silence through its network of nearly 250 student clubs, most calling themselves Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA). The Day of Silence is an important tool for students because it gives them the ability to take the power back from the bullies who seek to silence the voices of LGBT students in our schools, said Joseph R. Bento, a high school teacher, GSA advisor and GLSEN Washington States Education and Training Director. GLSEN believes every student has the right to a safe learning environment, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. However, far too many LGBT students in Washington State are denied that opportunity due to harassment and bullying in their schools.

Bullying and harassment, based on actual or perceived sexual orientation--and how masculine or feminine a student appears--are two of the top three reasons students said their peers are harassed in school, behind physical appearance, according to a 2005 Harris Interactive study, From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America. GLSENs 2005 National School Climate Survey showed nearly two-thirds of LGBT students (64%) reported feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.

The Day of Silence was created by University of Virginia students in 1996 and went national in 1997. GLSEN became the sponsor in 2001.

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