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Thousands of students participate in GLSEN's 17th annual national Day of Silence against bullying

News release from GLSEN:

NEW YORK - April 20, 2012 – Hundreds of thousands of students at thousands of schools are expected to participate in GLSEN’s 17th annual Day of Silence today by taking some form of a vow of silence to draw attention to the anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools.

Students from more than 8,000 middle schools and high schools registered to participate in this year’s Day of Silence, a student-led action which is sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN).

“My first day at GLSEN in 2001 involved a planning meeting for the Day of Silence, which was only observed on a few dozen campuses,” said GLSEN Executive Director Dr. Eliza Byard. “Since then, I have watched generations of students participate in this action, and I have witnessed historic change brought about by this partnership between students and GLSEN. The Day of Silence is an expression of solidarity, of strength, of urgency and of hope. Every year, new action in new places occurs as the result of a shared resolve to make sure schools are safe for all. This year, what will you do to end the silence?”

Students typically participate in the Day of Silence by taking a vow of silence throughout the school day, unless asked to participate in class. The event is designed to illustrate the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment.

“The Day of Silence is important to me because its sheds a silent light on students who face hurtful bullying,” said Jeremy Brown, a high school student from Fargo, North Dakota. “Every time an anti-gay word or action is used it becomes louder in my mind. The Day of Silence has the ability to bring students together to support those who've been affected by harsh words and actions, which I really believe everyone can relate to.”

Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students reported being harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation, and 30% report missing at least a day of school in the past month out of fear for their personal safety, according to GLSEN's 2009 National School Climate Survey of more than 7,000 LGBT students.

“My life has drastically changed from one spectrum to the other; fighting off not only bullying but also depression,” said Thomas Nguyen, a high school student from Renton, Washington. “The Day of Silence is a day where I recognize the changes I've made in my life. Before, I used to silence myself in fear of being bullied, but now I've learned to speak up and make an effort towards social change.”

The Day of Silence was founded in 1996 by students at the University of Virginia with over 150 students participating in the inaugural event. In 2001, GLSEN became the official organizational sponsor for the event.

“We started the Day of Silence as a group of young people who wanted to speak out against the daily silencing we faced as LGBT students,” said Day of Silence Co-founder Jesse Gilliam. “I am so heartened students at over 8,000 schools are using the Day of Silence to take a stand against bullying, homophobia, and transphobia. I want to thank each of these students and GLSEN for their courageous leadership."

To bring attention to this problem, many students will hand out speaking cards on the Day of Silence, which read:

"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 the 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."

About GLSEN

GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN's research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.

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