Thousands of student activists across America will go through today without saying a word to help raise awareness of discrimination.
The Gay, Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has organised the 11th Annual Day of Silence.
It provides a platform for students and teachers to protest against:
“discrimination, harassment and abuse, in effect, the silencing, faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students and their allies in schools.”
The campaign has a strong following in the US and more than 500,000 participants from more than 350 schools are expected to remain mute in protest.
“Seeing so may students, gay and straight, bring attention to the pervasive problem of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment is an inspiration to all of us who believe that every student has a right to feel safe in school,” said GLSEN Founder and Executive Director Kevin Jennings.
“In choosing not to speak, students will say so much about the will of our youth to bring about positive change in schools.”
Conservative “pro-family” groups have been encouraging students to boycott the event and are organising a rival “Day of Truth.”
“Teenagers deserve an opportunity to study English, history, math and science, without being subjected to pro-homosexual proselytising sanctioned by school authorities,” said Linda Harvey, president and founder of the conservative group Mission America.
“In many cases, at the U.S. taxpayer’s expense, the normal school day comes to a screeching halt in an effort to bring attention to the so-called ‘hatred, bigotry and name calling’ directed toward homosexual individuals.”
Mission America is a member of NotOurKids.com, an umbrella organisation for “pro-family groups who object to the disruptive political hijacking of America’s classrooms by pro-homosexual advocates,” according to its website.
NotOurKids is attempting to alert parents and teachers to what it sees as a deceptive agenda.
“The Day of Silence is a one-sided campaign to manipulate acceptance of homosexuality by every student,” NotOurKids argue via their website.
“Nationwide, parents are fed up with the political hijacking of their kids’ classrooms,” they add.
Another organisation opposed to the “Day of Silence” is the Alliance Defence Fund (ADF), a conservative Christian group. On the day after campaign, the ADF are organising a “Day of Truth” to “counter the promotion of the homosexual agenda”.
But Rick Garcia, the director of public policy for Equality Illinois, told the Naperville Sun that to boycott the Day of Silence would undermine free speech.
“These people sound like they’d be a perfect fit for Nazi Germany,” he said.
“‘Let’s burn books so our perfect children are not tainted’ … Not our kids. Well, they are your kids.
“If they think they’re going to keep their kids from gay people or a discussion of homosexuality anywhere, they are delusional,” he added.
The Day of Silence has a much smaller following in Canada.
This year 1,250 students from Iroquouis Ridge High School in Oakville will observe a vowel of silence.
French teacher Chris Breakspear brought the issue of homophobia to the attention of students when he posted a picture of two boys who were hanged in Iran because of their homosexuality.