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National Day of

National Day of


Hundreds of thousands of students are expected to take part in Friday's national Day of Silence to combat school bullying just months after Lawrence King's tragic killing inside the walls of a school.

Day of Silence Seeks to Quiet Harassment of LGBT Students

Call it a lesson in the real-world value of homework. Sparked by a class assignment on nonviolent protest at the University of Virginia in 1996, the Day of Silence has grown to become the largest student-led event in the LGBT community.

On April 25 an estimated 500,000 students at more than 5,000 middle schools, high schools, colleges, and universities across the nation will take part in the Day of Silence to call attention to the widespread problem of anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying, and harassment. Organizers anticipate this year's effort will generate the highest levels of participation yet for a uniquely powerful, youth-driven action.

"The Day of Silence is a very moving idea to make manifest the anti-LGBT behavior that happens in schools," explains Eliza Byard, deputy executive director of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, which coordinates the project. "It provides a meaningful way for students to be involved as individuals and to make a difference."

This year, Day of Silence activities nationwide are dedicated to the memory of Lawrence King. In February, the 15-year-old gay student at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard, Calif., was shot and killed by a 14-year-old classmate, allegedly because of his sexual orientation and gender expression.

Organizers are determined to turn the tragedy into an teaching moment.

"There was a widespread sense of grief and connection to the event," says GLSEN's Byard about King's death. "And there was a real concern that the story was disappearing."

In downtown Los Angeles, approximately 65 miles southeast of where King lived, students at the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex in the Los Angeles Unified School District have planned what may be the largest single Day of Silence recognition in history. More than 900 students, or nearly half the student body, have registered to participate in activities scheduled for April 24 and led by the School of Justice.

"I'm really proud of the kids for putting together such a great program," states Heather Daims, principal of the school. "It's powerful to see students with their level of knowledge educate their peers and have a conversation and a dialogue about these issues." In honor of their remarkable work, students and faculty of the school received a public commendation on April 23 from groups like GLSEN, Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Gay Straight-Alliance Network, and cast members from the forthcoming film Tru Loved.

Jaycee Melendez, 18, the president of the school's gay-straight alliance, hopes their success will inspire even more students to hold Day of Silence events in the future.

"It can take some time for students to get used to LGBT issues," he advises. "But in time, they become open to it and become more accepting."

As the national sponsor of the Day of Silence since 2001, GLSEN plays a caretaker role for an event spearheaded at the local level by students. Other organizations involved include Lambda Legal and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which provide practical legal information for participants, and the GSA Network.

Day of Silence observances vary depending on the educational environment, but the unifying concept is that students become quiet for all or part of the school day to symbolize the voices that are not heard because of anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying, and harassment. Through their actions, participants express solidarity with peers who experience anti-LGBT behavior, and they ask their schools to remedy the situation, perhaps through stricter policies, training for staff members, or the implementation of diversity curricula.

Students register voluntarily for Day of Silence events, commonly organized by student-run GSA chapters. School districts do not endorse the events officially, although students are encouraged to notify administrators and teachers of their plans in advance and to elicit their support. Adult input may take the form of help with a Breaking the Silence assembly, an increasingly popular way for communities to conclude the Day of Silence with public reflection, dialogue, and healing.


Resource Links

Event home pageLegal informationLocations of participating studentsGLSEN's 2005 National School Climate SurveyIn memory of Lawrence KingTru Loved

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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