The National Day of Silence is being celebrated on April 15th. Where I teach it was celebrated a week early due to a very busy college schedule. In class I called on one of my students who instead handed me this note:
Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence (DOS), a national youth movement bringing attention to the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their allies. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by anti-LGBT bullying, name calling and harassment. I believe that ending that silence is the first step toward building awareness and making a commitment to address these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today.
Here is a sample letter that organizers suggested be given to everyone so that the meaning of the day could be understood:
I am writing to inform you of a student-led action that will take place in thousands of schools across the nation. Friday, April 16th, 2010, marks the 15th annual National Day of Silence. The Day of Silence is the largest single student-led action towards creating safer schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. I wanted to let you know that I am supporting our students’ Day of Silence efforts, and that you can support them as well.
There are many ways for educators to support students on the Day of Silence. The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has created a resource that gives you background information about the Day of Silence, suggestions and tips for supporting students’ Day of Silence efforts and links to additional resources for supporting LGBT students in school. You can download The Educators’ Guide to the Day of Silence at www.glsen.org/educator. It is my hope that you take the time to read the guide and learn how you can help, but also I wanted to tell you about two simple ways that you can support the Day of Silence.
During the Day of Silence, students may be taking a vow of silence for part or all of the day. One way you can support our students is by choosing to conduct lessons and activities that will allow the students to remain silent. For example, you can screen a video related to LGBT rights or other social justice movements or engage the students in a reading or visual art activity. Another way to support students’ Day of Silence efforts is to inform other students about the Day of Silence, its purpose and some activities students in the school may be participating in. This will help to create a safer space within the school for students’ participating in the Day of Silence.
Perhaps some good will come of what is learned from this day when it takes place on Friday.
William Van Ornum