by William Van Ornum, Ph.D. on
It has become a tradition where I teach for the students to make “National Day of Silence” a part of the year. This is national youth movement where silence is used as a tool to make others aware of the silence, often a quietude of contempt or ignoring, faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
Students who participate in this day often wear red, and they carry with them small printed cards so that they can let their teachers and other know that they will not be participating in class discussions or even social or other impromptu conversations. Each year at least a few students in my classes participate and I have often found their presence to be a powerful reminder of the kinds of issues faced by persons with these sexual orientations.
This Friday, April 15, 2011, is National Day of Silence. A great deal of preparation has gone into this event by young people themselves, especially letting administrators at high schools and colleges know of their plans and seeking permissions where this is necessary.
This year a big focus of the day is to bring awareness to all of the bullying that is suffered by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their allies. Rather than being an “in your face” demonstration, the power of silence is used to counter the negative force of bullying behaviors. Here is one of the letters that is used by the organizers in preparing for this day:
Dear School Staff,
I am writing to inform you of a student-led action that will take place in thousands of schools across the nation. Friday, April 16, 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 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 Day of Silence efforts and links to additional resources for supporting LGBT students in school. You can download the Educators’ Guide to the National Day of Silence. 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 the 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.
I hope that you will join me in supporting Day of Silence efforts and become part of an important student-led action. I encourage you to contact me for more information or any questions and I would be happy to join you and others in working together as allies to support the Day of Silence. The students and I thank you for your support.