Friday marked the 18th National Day of Silence in the US, an annual event in which students tackle homophobia and transphobia through vows of silence.

Organised by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), hundreds of thousands of students are reported to have taken part in the event. Participants avoided speaking for the day in order to raise awareness of anti-LGBT bullying.

“The Day of Silence has grown into one of the largest student-led actions in the world because of students’ determination to directly address the pervasive issue of anti-LGBT behavior and bias in our schools,” said Dr Eliza Byard, GLSEN’s Executive Director.

Florida Democratic Representative Alcee Hastings voiced his support for the yearly tradition and applauded the people who took part: “With their silence, they give a voice to those who are bullied and singled out because of their sexual identity, and show their peers in the LGBT community that they are not alone when confronting bullying and discrimination.”

Gary Cass, head of the Christian Anti-defamation Commission, was of the opinion that gay students were the real bullies. He said: “Homosexuals and their allies are bullying these students and forcing them to accept their sinful lifestyle. Many students already struggle with feeling hated because of their Christian beliefs.”

Earlier this month conservative radio host Linda Harvey attacked the Day of Silence, and told listeners to keep their children home from school that day to avoid “advocates of homosexuality”.

On Thursday US Congress members Jared Polis, an openly gay Democrat from Colorado, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, introduced the Student Non-Discrimination Act.

If successful, the legislation would prohibit schools in receipt of public funding from discriminating against LGBT students.