by James Whitely -
SGN Staff Writer
Friday, April 20, is the annual National Day of Silence, a student-led event that brings attention to anti-LGBT harassment and bullying in schools. In middle schools, high schools, and colleges, students take a vow of silence for a day to promote visibility of anti-LGBT behavior. The idea is that the vow shows 'the silencing effect' that bullying and harassment can create for LGBT students and/or those perceived to be LGBT. The event is sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).
Despite being a national event, the Day of Silence sees participation from all over the world. Last year, the event saw participation in New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, and other countries across the globe.
Recently, GLSEN Washington put on their annual Puget Sound Leadership Summit, where they showed students how to put on the Day of Silence in detail, from planning phases to the day itself.
'We had schools from Garfield, Roosevelt, all the way out to Mount Si High School,' said Eric Bennett, secretary of GLSEN Washington's board. 'The students were very interested in participating this year.'
In 2001, GLSEN became the official organizational sponsor for the Day of Silence.
However the event traces it roots to 1996, when students at the University of Virginia organized the first Day of Silence for an assignment on non-violent protests. More than 150 students participated, and in 1997, the organizers kept the ball rolling by making their event national. Nearly 100 colleges and participated that year.
In 2009, GLSEN conducted their 'National School Climate Survey.' The survey, which polled 7,261 middle school and high school students, found that nearly nine out of 10 students identifying as LGBT (84.6%) reported verbal, sexual, or physical harassment at school in the previous year, and more than 30% reported missing at least a day of school in the past month as a result of that harassment.
GLSEN encourages and offers information for schools and their Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) to coordinate follow-up events to the Day of Silence. Events typically include discussions, speakers and workshops.
'The Day of Silence brings schools and communities together to show, in a peaceful way, the importance of anti-bullying. It shows the voice of the LGBT community in the school systems,' Bennett told SGN.
According to Bennett, that silence is very loud.
GLSEN is a national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Donations to GLSEN's Day of Silence can be made on their website at www.glsen.org.
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