Day of Silence Raises Questions

The Gay, Lesbians, and Straight Education Network’s Day of Silence – a day when students stay quiet the entire day to bring attention to injustice – was held at BASH April 11th sponsored by the school’s Gay Straight Alliance.

However, some students are speaking out now about administrative changes made to cards students wore explaining why they were remaining silent. Some say the changes amounted to censorship. Administrators say the changes were made to make the day more inclusive.

The Day of Silence is an annual youth-led movement that occurs in multitudes of middle schools, high schools, colleges, and universities in the U.S.

In order to inform other students and teachers about their vow, participants wear and/or carry a Day of Silence card with them throughout the day. The cards traditionally read:

“Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence, 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.”

However, BASH administration mandated that the cards worn by students at BASH make the following changes:

“bringing attention to the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their allieswas changed to “indicating an appreciation for the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their allies”.

• “which is caused by anti-LGBT bullying, name-calling, and harassment” was changed to“which is caused by harassment, prejudice, and discrimination”.

• Administration also deleted, “Think about the voices you are NOT hearing today.”

Some members of the LGBT club say the cards were revised to avoid directly stating that anti-LGBT bullying is present and overlooked, denying the existence of it.

“The censorship of the DoS cards is exactly what Day of Silence exists to prevent; however, the cruel irony of being silenced while trying to end the silence faced by LGBTQ students like myself was, sadly, to be expected,” said GSA club member Emily Sterner. “The school is making quite a grand claim by calling themselves a No Place for Hate school, because it is reasons like the censorship of Day of Silence that causes LGBTQ students to live in fear when they should be protected.”
BASH Principal Dr. Brett Cooper says the changes were made not to censor but to make the day more inclusive. The cards were revised a few years ago for the high school’s first Day of Silence, he said, not to modify or hide the bullying, but to instead extend the Day of Silence to match the umbrella of No Place For Hate, the school’s anti-bullying campaign.

“The purpose of No Place for Hate,” Dr. Cooper explains, is not to ‘claim there is no hate’, but to acknowledge it and work to resolve it.”
The Day of Silence began in 1996, at the University of Virginia, and has grown across the nation, featuring more than eight thousands schools participating today. The movement is expected to continue growing and reaches out to more students every year. Its slogan is, “What will you do to end the silence?”

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