The National Day of Silence Aims To Give Virginia Area LGBTQ Youth a Voice
On April 11th, thousands of middle school, high school and college students will protest anti-LGBTQ bullying by keeping their mouths shut.
Students will speak with neither friends, foes nor teachers. Their only form of communication will be a card they hold explaining their choices. The goal? Combat the silence that befalls many LGBTQ students due to harassment.
The effort is sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLESN), which, according to its website, is the “leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students.”
In 1999, the organization “identified the need for national data on the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students.” Since then, GLESN has conducted a “Student Climate Survey” every two years. The survey shows decreasing levels of anti-LGBTQ bullying in schools, but the fact remains that secondary schools are far from a safe haven for LGBTQ youths.
According to the survey, almost 85 percent of students frequently heard “gay” used in a negative way by their peers, and nearly 60 percent of students heard homophobic remarks and negative comments about gender expressions from teachers and staff. 82 percent of LGBTQ students had been verbally harassed in the past year due to their sexuality, and nearly 40 percent were physically harassed.
“ROSMY’s experience working with local LGBTQ youth has affirmed this data,” said Beth Panilaitis, executive director of Richmond Organization of Sexual Minority Youth (ROSMY). “Not only does the Day of Silence help educate about these issues, it also highlights the solutions. Students are safer when their schools implement comprehensive anti-bullying policies, support GSAs and train their staff through programs like ROSMY’s Institute for Equality. The Day of Silence helps us make progress in creating safe schools for LGBTQ youth.”
Students around the country see the serious need for both LGBTQ students and their allies to take a stand against LGBTQ harassment, and bullying in general.
“Day of Silence is to me the biggest and most important event that we do, and it helps bring support to the kids that stay quiet when they get bullied and picked on [sic],” said Terrell Mitchell, an 18-year-old student at Yorktown High School. Mitchell said his school is very supportive of the event. “They are with [sic] us every step of the way.”
The movement was founded in 1996 by then University of Virginia student Maria Pulzetti.
“I wanted to do something for BGLAD [Bisexual Gay Lesbian Adolescent Drop-in] week that would impact many people at the school and that would be very visible,” said Pulzetti in an interview Oasis Journal . “I knew that if we held panel discussions and events like that, the only people who would come would be the people who already were fairly aware. I also wanted to event to involve straight allies.”
Students who participate in the Day of Silence force everyone around them to take notice. “Day of Silence is a day of not just silence, but a day to stop bullying and to help be the voice of someone who [sic] can not find their own [sic],” said Mitchell.
According to the event’s website, National Day of Silence is now the largest “student-led action towards creating safer schools for all.”
Day of Silence will happen tomorrow, April 11, at schools across the nation. Information about the event can be found on its website.
Hello everyone, We in PFLAG Richmond want to wish all of you a happy and healthy New Year. For our next meeting, we are honored to welcome Trish Boland, Co-Chair of the Richmond Chapter of the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN). GLSEN’s mission is to ensure that every student in every school is [...]January 4, 2016
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