April 15, 2011

>Find out at 6:00 PM EST on Friday, April 15 as SiriusXM Radio's OutQ will be airing an in-depth hour-long radio special on the National Day of Silence! The special will be hosted by Xorje Olivares from OutQ news and OutQ Executive Producer Amber Hall and will feature interviews from Maria Pulzetti and Jesse Gilliam, founders of Day of Silence, GLSEN staff members and youth advocates and celebrity guests.

Join in the conversation!
You can ask questions or share your Day of Silence stories via phone at 866-305-6887 or via Twitter to @OutQ and @DayofSilence. We'll be live tweeting during the broadcast, so be sure to follow @DayofSilence and @OutQ today!

Don't have SiriusXM? Click here for a FREE trial subscription so you can listen to the Day of Silence broadcast.

April 15, 2011

We receive a lot of emails and comments at info@dayofsilence.org, but some of the most upsetting are the ones outlining the ways that schools are restricting the rights of youth participating in the Day of Silence. Here are a few comments we've received this morning. It's strong reminder of why the Day of Silence is so important.

By 10 am this morning more than 30 students had already benn called to the office for participating in the Day of Silence. They were told to participate they had to go home with an unexcused absence, but they were an educational distraction to be silent all day.

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School personnel are telling me that I cannot support it by putting a printed piece of paper on my shirt telling why i am not talking. And an attendance clerk said to me "I am not playing these stupid little games."

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Administrator sent an e-mail saying to bring all the students participating in the day of silence to the office.

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We can not discuss in class nor give materials to students. Students who choose to participate must report to a counselor. We have been denied having a GSA even after several groups of students have asked for one. We have a transgender student who needs our support. I'm being asked to take down the poster in the library and not hand out bracelets to my group.

If you're experiencing resistance or opposition from your school, please visit the Report It form and let us know. A representative from Lambda Legal may be in contact to assist.

April 15, 2011

>Every Friday the website TopFollowFriday.com ranks tweet endorsements of your favorite Twitterers. Last year the Day of Silence got FIRST PLACE! Even above Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga! See the screenshot:

Help us again this year! Just send a tweet using these tags - #followfriday @dayofsilence - plus a message, like this:

EXAMPLE: #followfriday @dayofsilence Tweet this to endorse the Day of Silence for Follow Friday! PLZ RT!

EXAMPLE: #ff @dayofsilence Tweet this to endorse the Day of Silence for Follow Friday!

Encourage your followers to do the same thing. And don't forget to join @dayofsilence for our Tweet Chat beginning at 3:00pm Eastern: http://tweetchat.com/room/dayofsilence

Thanks for tweeting, and have a great Day of Silence!

April 14, 2011

>Anthony Crisci is GLSEN's Days of Action Intern. He's been working really hard for the past several months to deliver communications, resources and products to student organizers. He reflects on his experience and shares with us his thoughts about the Day of Silence.

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Labeling envelopes, collecting materials, posting information, responding to emails; these are some of the things I do everyday as an intern for the Day of Silence. I have printed out thousands of labels each with a different name, a different address, but not one with a face. While getting ready for the Day of Silence I often try to picture some of the hundreds of thousands of students that will be participating, but despite my efforts they often remain faceless.

These faceless students are exactly what the Day of Silence represents. If schools made addressing anti-LGBT bullying and harassment a priority there certainly would not be a need for this day. The students who will be participating in the Day of Silence are the same students who are forced to walk through school halls each day not only frequently hearing anti-LGBT language and slurs, but in extreme cases becoming victims of anti-LGBT violence. These incidents are not stories that often make the news; they occur so frequently that they are often seen as common place and un-noteworthy.

The Day of Silence is a day when these faceless students make the news. For one day the entire country will stop and acknowledge the existence of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. This time it will not be because of a tragic murder or suicide, this time we will acknowledge this problem because of the peaceful silent demonstration of students who will not remain faceless any longer. I may not be able to see their faces, but students in thousands of schools across the country will be standing together in silence on April 15, 2011. They may be alone at their school, but they know that the entire country will be watching and listening… to their silence.

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Stay tuned for more Day of Silence stories. If you would like to share your story, email us at info@dayofsilence.org.

April 14, 2011

>Today is the National Day of Silence.

DID YOU KNOW...?

  • Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students experience harassment in American schools each year.
  • 60% of LGBT youth feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.
  • Nearly 1 out of 3 LGBT youth missed school in the past month because of safety concerns.

On the National Day of Silence, hundreds of thousands of students at thousands of middle schools, high schools and colleges will take some form of a vow of silence to bring attention to anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools.

So...what are YOU going to do to end the silence?

All statistics were taken from the 2009 National School Climate Survey.

April 14, 2011

>Being a student and an organizer can be a lot! Frequently we hear from organizers who have been planning for the Day of Silence for weeks only to find themselves unprepared on the morning of their event.

So, take the time this afternoon/evening to double check your to-do list with your advisor and/or fellow organizers. Make sure you haven’t put anything off until the last minute because once you get to school you will want to be able to hit the ground running in order to make the biggest impact.

Here are some things to remember as you finalize your arrangements for your Day of Silence event:

  1. LIST: Make a to-do list of final tasks and think of people who could take on some of those tasks for you. Get started with the items on this list!
  2. REGISTER: If you haven't already, be sure to CLICK HERE to register your participation in the Day of Silence and be counted among the hundreds of thousands of other students nationwide participating in the Day of Silence.
  3. CONNECT: The night before your event call, email or text all of the people helping you organize to make sure everyone is on the same page.
  4. PRINT: Be sure you have all the materials you need, and extras to hand out, such as: Speaking Cards, Lambda Legal: Freedom to Speak (Or Not) 2011, ACLU: Letter to Principal or Educator, Stickers, and Posters and cut, fold, or label these materials as needed.
  5. GATHER: Get all Day of Silence items and materials in one place to ensure that they are clean and organized (shirts, buttons, stickers, pamphlets, speaking cards, posters, etc.)
  6. CHARGE: You want to take pictures, right? Text? Tweet? Make sure your camera, phone and computer batteries are all charged up and ready to go in the morning!
  7. DOUBLE CHECK your to-do list: It never hurts to be extra careful!
  8. REST: You're gonna need it for your exciting day of taking action!

Ready, set, go!

April 14, 2011

>We’ve received reports from a number of organizers who have suffered problems after wearing duct tape on their mouths. As a consequence we feel it is important to address this safety issue. While we have never encouraged nor endorsed wearing duct tape for the Day of Silence, we recognize that the symbolism of putting duct tape over the mouth has become quite popular amongst some DOS organizers.

Duct tape uses a very strong, water-resistant adhesive. When students attempt to take off the tape we have heard about a range of problems. In some instances there have been minor issues such as having difficulty removing the tape's glue from skin. In other more severe cases, students have experienced hair removal, rashes and skin irritation, and torn or ripped skin.

And, wearing tape over your mouth can cause unwanted resistance from your school's administration who may also be concerned for your safety. As a result they may forbid the use of duct tape or try to stop Day of Silence activities. Since the goal is to be able to have an effective Day of Silence, it may be more strategic to consider other ways of showing your support.

It's definitely not a requirement to cover your mouth for the Day of Silence, but if you want to consider using a bandanna or surgical mask. They're much safer, more comfortable and you can reuse them!

UPDATE: As one organizer has just pointed out, students who wear lip jewelry could be in for a painful breaking the silence.

April 13, 2011

>Day of Silence Reporter and GLSEN Student Ambassador Nowmee S. shares their story of coming out and the importance of the Day of Silence.



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Coming Out in Silence

Sophomore year was coming to an end, and I had survived my first year in an American high school. I had just moved to the US from halfway across the globe and as I was finally getting over home sickness and settling in to my new life I was realizing something about myself that I did not like. Something I did not understand completely and could not identify anyone to talk to about. Being queer was ostracized in my culture and never spoken of with my friends.

Two years ago on a seemingly normal Monday, someone at lunch had mentioned that there was a Gay-Straight Alliance forming in our school and that they were having their first meeting that Friday. I made a quick joke about it and changed the subject. However as the week progressed I found the courage to tell my brother that I was thinking of going to the GSA meeting. Without question he said that he would accompany me. Soon Friday had arrived and coincidently it was also the Day of Silence. Although there was nothing official happening, a lot of students were wearing red to show their support and remained silent throughout the day. It took all the courage I had to walk into that first meeting. As I walked in I saw familiar faces: my classmates, my brother, a teacher I had seen around campus. I was welcomed with a smile and offered snacks.

That Day of Silence I did not come of the closet, in fact I was far from even coming out to myself. However that Friday, in Room 119, I had come out as an ally to LGBT youth. That is the power of the Day of Silence: it gives students a platform to stand up against bullying and show solidarity with LGBT students.

Seeing affirmative students and an adult at that first GSA meeting and during Day of Silence made a world of difference for me. Since then we have a well established GSA at our school and have over a hundred students and teachers participating in the Day of Silence. Today I am a committed LGBT youth activist and have found agency through self advocacy but I am here because of the support of amazing peers and my GSA advisor. I know how lucky I am to have counselors, teachers and even the principal who are supportive and know that is not the case for a lot of students across the nation and around the world. This is my call to all students. Take part in the nation’s largest student led actions; pledge a day of silence this April 15th; pledge a commitment to making schools safer for all students.


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Stay tuned for more Day of Silence stories. If you would like to share your story, email us at info@dayofsilence.org.

April 13, 2011

>As you’ve all seen, there are some groups and some individuals out there who are doing all they can to detract from the purpose of the Day of Silence. Some of these groups are encouraging parents to pull students out of school, organizing events to counter the Day of Silence, or protesting schools and community centers hosting Day of Silence activities. Some individuals have been visiting the Day of Silence pages on Facebook and elsewhere to share hateful comments.

Here are a couple of tips for you if you find yourself facing this type of opposition during your Day of Silence organizing:

  1. Stay cool: It’s difficult to be challenged, and some that oppose the Day of Silence may say hurtful things. Relax. Breathe. Remember that you’re participating in DOS to make a difference, not to start fights.
  2. Step away: The Day of Silence is about starting conversations, but often those strongly opposing DOS are not truly interested in genuine conversation. Some are only interested in provoking you. In these cases it’s best to walk away and not respond. Don’t let anyone detract from the purpose!
  3. Be respectful: The Day of Silence is about ending anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in school. To do this, it's important to treat people with respect. Treat people who oppose the DOS not as they treat you but with the same respect you hope to be treated with. Remember, the Day of Silence is a peaceful demonstration!
  4. Share The Four Truths: Often people make decisions about the Day of Silence without getting accurate information about the action. This document highlights four often misunderstood elements of the Day of Silence. Print it out and provide it to those who may be confused as to what DOS is for.
  5. Report it: If there are people who are bullying or harassing you as part of their opposition, you should report it—to school officials, online authorities, your parents—immediately. In school, make sure to notify a supportive staff member, and ask for their assistance as you follow up on the status of your report.
  6. Share your story: Stay connected with other organizers about your experience. Talk to your student club or tell your story on the Facebook Day of Silence Page and Twitter.
  7. Contact us: If you experience extreme amounts of opposition, face bullying and harassment please fill out this form to let us know. Someone from our partner Lambda Legal will be in touch to assist you.
  8. Spread the word: Share this post with other organizers so that we can all work together to focus our attention on the things that matter to make change.

We hope you have an effective, safe, and fun Day of Silence!

April 13, 2011

>Cross posted from Feminist Teacher: educating for equity and justice

Elizabeth J. Meyer is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Education at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec. She is the author of two books: Gender, bullying, and harassment: Strategies to end sexism and homophobia in schools (2009) and Gender and sexual diversity in schools (2010). She blogs regularly for Psychology Today and the Freire International Project for Critical Pedagogy.

I was excited to get the invitation to write this guest post about the upcoming Day of Silence (DOS) on Friday, April 15, 2011. This is an important event that is taking place in high schools and universities across the country and I was asked to offer some suggestions for educators on how best to support students who have decided to participate in this event.

What is the Day of Silence?

This somewhat controversial event began in 1996 at the University of Virginia when a group of students chose to remain silent for one day to call attention to the anti-LGBT name-calling and harassment at their school. In 2008, over 8,000 middle and high schools registered with GLSEN (The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) to participate. Although it was originally a grassroots, student-initiated event, GLSEN has provided their infrastructure to create educational resources and organizing ideas to their network of chapters and via their website to support widespread participation. There has been backlash in some communities against this event, but students and teachers who have participated indicate that it is a non-confrontational, yet empowering way to highlight these issues in a school community.

What is the controversy?

The Alliance Defense Fund, supported by the Southern Baptist Convention Press promotes a Day of Truth, now the Day of Dialogue, in response to the “homosexual agenda” of public schools participating in DOS activities. In Day of Truth/Day of Dialogue activities, generally scheduled for the day after DOS programs, students are encouraged to express an opposing viewpoint. In 2006, ADF claims students in over 700 schools, participated in Day of Truth activities (Janofsky, 2005). One of the more popular tee-shirts includes the message “Homosexuality is Shameful” along with other religious based anti-gay messages. Some school leaders’ response to this show of intolerance is to ban the shirts from school grounds.

The American Liberties Institute supported the efforts of James Nixon against a middle school for not allowing his son to wear a tee-shirt stating, among other things, “Homosexuality is a sin!” (Nixon v. Northern Local School District Board of Education, 2005). The Southern District Court of Ohio granted an injunction prohibiting enforcement of the tee-shirt ban.

In a similar case, Tyler Harper was suspended for wearing a “Homosexuality is Shameful” tee-shirt (Harper v. Poway, 2006). The principal considered Tyler’s message to be “inflammatory.” Poway High School has been the scene of several altercations and incidents surrounding DOS events. In fact, Tyler admitted that he had been confronted by a group of students protesting the shirt that very morning. Further, a San Diego Superior Court jury had recently awarded damages of $175,000 and $125,000 to two former Poway High School students because of a failure to protect them from peer sexual orientation harassment (Littlefield, 2005). The 9th Circuit Court concluded that Tyler’s tee-shirt did collide with the rights of other students. As such, it was proper for the district to ban the wearing of the tee-shirt.

Balancing law and pedagogy: What are educators to do?

Although there are contradictory legal precedents on how to address these situations in schools, the DOS can provide great teachable moments for educators. Teachers, counselors, and administrators can use it as an opportunity to promote dialogue around civic engagement, the role of allies in promoting equality rights, as well as bullying and harassment related to homophobia and transphobia. I wrote a blog post about stopping bullying based on gender and sexuality that can provide some talking points for teachers.

In a democratic nation, it is very important for schools to teach and promote civic engagement. One important element of this is to be able to understand the issues in your community, draw conclusions based on your knowledge and experiences, and then take action to improve the issues identified. The DOS is a wonderful example of students participating in democracy and expressing their concern in a respectful and relevant way in order to encourage change in their school communities. For more information on students’ legal rights, you should read this guide from Lambda Legal.

Issues of solidarity are also important in social change movements. It is valuable for students to learn about ally work and what it means to help advocate for the needs of a silenced minority group.

5 Ways Educators can teach through the “Day of Silence”

  1. Make an announcement at the beginning of each class that you are aware of the event, and that you will ask students participating to contribute to class in other ways (writing on the board, yes/no signs, reflective writing piece, etc.).
  2. Break the silence around LGBT issues in the curriculum. Find some relevant way to address LGBT invisibility in your course content. Either discuss the absence of the topic in your course texts, or prepare a lesson that explicitly addresses issues related to sexual orientation, gender identity, LGBT rights, or notable contributions by LGBT people in history (arts, sports, literature, math, science, etc.).
  3. Show your support by wearing a “Day of Silence” T-shirt. You can make your own or order one online. Although you may not be able to maintain your silence all day long, the visible show of solidarity with the students can be a powerful one. I did this when I was working at the University of New Hampshire in 2003, and many students expressed their appreciation for this gesture.
  4. Ask your students to write a reflection essay on the reasons they chose or chose not to participate. This can help teach critical thinking, logical reasoning, and encourage them to consider their position on bullying and harassment as well as LGBT equality rights and the role that each individual can play in maintaining or challenging the status-quo.
  5. Work together with the student council and the administration at your school to plan a post-Day of Silence assembly and debrief. Invite outside speakers to be on a panel that can address topics such as: bullying and harassment, the invisibility of LGBT individuals and history from the curriculum, current local issues related to safety and equality for LGBT people, legal issues related to freedom of expression in the school community, and/or separation of church and state (particularly if Day of Truth/Day of Dialogue events are planned).

I hope you find these ideas helpful – please post questions or responses about how things went at your schools and universities on the Day of Silence this Friday.

Readers can visit Meyers’s webpage, follow her on Twitter, and read her blog posts at Psychology Today.

- Elizabeth J. Meyer

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