May 03, 2013

>Silence is Golden: A GSA Success Story From New Jersey!

>Debbie G. Sent us this story for the blog:

Our GSA had an awesome DOS. We didn't just remain silent, club members decided to make t-shirts so that people would know why they were remaining silent. We came up with the slogan, “Silence Isn't Golden.” About 50 t-shirts were made (this was done in the library at lunch time when we are very crowded, with anywhere from 150-200 students, so lots of people saw us working and wanted to know more about the DOS). Then we figured we needed to do something for people who wanted to show support but couldn't stay silent all day for whatever reason. We borrowed an idea from another school and made rainbow ribbons. We made about 500 of these. We put a ribbon in each staff member’s mail slot. I sent an email earlier explaining what the day was about and I also told staff members that if they didn't want a ribbon they could leave it in a box that would be placed in the office for that purpose.

The DOS didn't start off well. A staff member came to me in the library to talk to me about "library issues." Well he had several but the main issue was he couldn’t believe that I would be “involved in something as disruptive as the Day of Silence[his words]!” I was sure this was a portent of the future. Sure enough, the next day when I arrived at school I looked in the ribbon return box and it was full. I was disappointed. But after about a half hour, something started to happen. Students started coming to the library looking for the ribbons. Students wanted to know how you got a t-shirt, and what you needed to join in! Teachers started to email and phone me asking for ribbons for their classes. One teacher called me to her room to show how she was using the ribbons as a teaching tool. She spent almost her entire class talking about what the day meant (and she is a math teacher!).

But the most gratifying moment came when a teacher I didn't think would be supportive walked into the library proudly wearing a ribbon. I was so sure he wouldn't I told Erica, the president and founder of our GSA, not to put one in his box. Erica refused and said that everyone had to get a ribbon- that they needed to make the choice to return the ribbon, we couldn't make it easy for them not to participate! When I told this teacher that I was surprised he was wearing the ribbon he asked me why I felt that way. I stammered that I thought he was very conservative. He then asked me why being conservative meant that you wouldn't support human rights. He went on to say the Day of Silence was about human rights and that he was for the rights of all humans! A learning lesson for me! Another teacher that I didn't think would be supportive stopped by to give me two poems he wrote to honor the day!

By lunch time every one of our ribbons was gone.
We could have distributed at least 100 more! I got so many complimentary emails from staff and the students were so grateful. I think there were many students who felt that this showed that they are safer in our schools because they have many, many allies! We also found out that every single administrator wore a ribbon!

Do you have a Day of Silence story you’d like to share? Email commintern@glsen.org

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