Saturday, April 14, 2012

Day of Silence

Wednesday, April 20, 2012 has been designated to be this year's Day of Silence.  For those of you who may not be aware, the Day of Silence is a day each year in which students take a vow of silence in order to draw attention to the silencing effects of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment.  The first Day of Silence was in 1996 at the University of Virginia, and since then has grown to an event in which over 8,000 middle schools, high schools, and colleges participate annually. (  There are many different supporters of this event around the country, from high-fashion to television anchors.  Further, students around the nation create their own videos to enlist support:

Oftentimes, Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA's) will organize events throughout the day, signing students up to participate, advertising through posters and through school announcements, and even holding a rally at the end of the day to Break the Silence.  It is always advised that students follow the following guidelines:
  • Do talk about participation with school administrators.  Even if there is some fear that there won't be school support, it is important for students to discuss this with their Principals, Assistant Principals, and Directors of Student Activities.  One of the overarching aims of the Day of Silence is to draw awareness to the extensive bullying and harassment of all students--this can be an opportunity for students to actively educate school administration on the issues.  As I've talked about before, LGBT students or students who are perceived to be LGBT are at a much higher risk of being bullied and harassed.  Students can find statistics here about LGBT bullying and harassment.  By working together with school administration, students can plan a successful day that will garner support and work within school or district policy for student-led events.
  • Know their rights with regards to participation.  The general rule of thumb for the Day of Silence is that students can remain silent between classes and at lunch.  However, if a teacher asks a direct question of a student during class as part of the instructional process, then they do need to respond and participate.  However, students are encouraged to discuss their planned participation ahead of time with their teachers.  This can have many positive effects, ranging from the teacher being respectful of that student remaining silent throughout his/her class, the teacher designing an instructional activity for the whole class that involves silence, or the teacher becoming more aware of the issues behind the Day of Silence.
  • Use this as an opportunity for education.  As previously discussed, students who are participating should attempt to discuss the issue of bullying and harassment with administrators and teachers.  Further, students should help to educate their peers and community at large, as well.  This can be done with their friends, one-on-one, or students can organize with a larger group, like their GSA, and perhaps have information during lunches, put together videos (like the one above) to be aired on the school news, or, as previously mentioned, organize a rally for the end of the day to Break the Silence.
As counselors, there are many ways that we can show support for the students who choose to participate in this event.  You may already be serving as your school's GSA advisor and are thus involved in supporting the students through the planning process.  If students are apprehensive about approaching school administration, you could be an ally and agree to go with them as they ask for support.  As you go around the school on April 20, you could simply show support by smiling at students or giving them a thumbs up as you see participants in the hallways, or you could place a Safe Space sticker in your office window as a sign to all students that you are a support to LGBT students.  Additionally, you could help to address any bullying or harassment of Day of Silence participants that you may witness.  If you want more detail and thoughts about how you or other educators can best support students on this day, take a look at the educator's guide.  GLSEN is also running a blog about the Day of Silence, and you can look at both the GLSEN and Day of Silence websites for more information.

Note--much of the information presented in this blog post was found at

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