Today thousands of students across America will take part in a ‘Day of Silence’.
The National Day of Silence is a day in which students take a vow of silence to bring attention the bullying that LGBT students, teachers and other staff face in schools across the US.
The National Day of Silence is coordinated nationally by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).
An estimated 500,000 students from nearly 5,000 junior and high schools in all 50 US states and Puerto Rico have participated in the National Day of Silence in past years and more than 6,000 schools have registered this year.
This year the ‘Day of Silence’ will take on special significance because of the murder of Lawrence King on 12th February 2008.
Lawrence, who was fifteen at the time of his death, was shot in the head by another student, allegedly because of his sexual orientation and because he sometimes wore feminine clothing.
Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin spoke out in favour of the event:
“This year’s event will be held in memory of Lawrence King, a California 8th-grader who was shot and killed Feb. 12 by a classmate because of his sexual orientation and gender expression.
“Larry’s death is an unnecessary reminder of what we already know: lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students continue to face pervasive harassment and victimization in schools.
“As students use their silence to demand schools are safe for all students, it is my hope that we in Congress will use our voices to ensure that it be so.”
Meanwhile, The American Family Association (AFA) has released a statement urging parents to take their children out of education for the day if their child’s school plans to observe the International Day Against Homophobia.
Describing themselves as, “a Christian organization promoting the biblical ethic of decency in American society with primary emphasis on TV and other media” the group spoke out against the ‘Day of Silence.’
In a statement the AFA said:
“The National Day of Silence will lead the students to believe that every person who
identifies as a homosexual, bisexual or cross-dresser is a victim of ongoing,
unrelenting harassment and hate.
“Students are taught that homosexuality is a worthy lifestyle, homosexuality has few or no risks, and individuals are born homosexual and cannot change.
“Those who oppose such teaching are characterized as ignorant and hateful bigots.”
The AFA are a large Christian based group that uses pushes a far-right conservative agenda. It’s chief aims are the recognition of Christmas in seasonal print advertisements and the criminalisation of homosexuality; lobbying in favour of traditional marriage.
They have frequently opposed equal-rights and hate-crime legislation that would benefit homosexuals and advocated censorship of print and electronic media.
Students in the UK are also taking part in the day. The Sussex University LGBT group will be taking part in the international day of silence on the Sussex campus based just outside Brighton.
All students taking part or supporting the event are being encouraged to wear black to show solidarity.
Sussex LGBT campaigns officer Tom Hewitson told PinkNews.co.uk:
“Being in the closet can ruin your life so today is all about expressing yourself.
“The Day of Silence has always been an American thing but we have a few US students who suggested that we took part and we thought it was a great idea.
“I think that it’s unlikely that what happened in America would happen here but I think that it is really important to be aware that it could happen and we need to put structures in place to make sure that it can’t.”
The silence will commence at 9am and end in a ‘breaking the silence’ ceremony at 5pm where the students that are taking part will join in a united scream followed by a chance to each express how the day made them feel.