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Friday, April 12, 2019

Day of Silence
Today we observe Day of Silence, a "student-led national event where folks take a vow of silence to highlight the silencing and erasure of LGBTQ people at school." The day was created in 1996 by University of Virginia students who had to complete a class assignment on non-violent protests. They created Day of Silence and 150 students participated. The organizers took the event nationally the following year, and almost 100 colleges and universities took part. GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network) became the official sponsor of the day in 2001. The day has been observed in all 50 states and in countries around the globe, and over 10,000 students register for it each year.

The day is meant to show what some students may feel at school daily. Most LGBTQ students don't see representations of people like them in their curriculum, and most also experience verbal harassment at school. Additionally, close to a third of LGBTQ students miss school days because they feel uncomfortable or unsafe. This "silencing" and "erasure" is why the day exists.

Educators and K-12 students register before taking part in the day, and students often talk to administrators before participating, so those in authority are aware of their plans. A Breaking the Silence Letter Generator, included on the Day of Silence website, helps participants to communicate with administrators and ask for support. Students often talk to teachers before the day as well, letting them know their plans. The day is most successful when students, teachers, and administrators all work together.

During the day, students take a vow of silence. There is no set way that they must do this. Students may remain silent during all aspects of the school day. To remain silent even during class time, students may ask teachers for permission to be able to communicate in writing for the day. Outside of the classroom, students may choose to remain silent in the halls, during lunch, or during any other free time. They may also forgo social media for the day.

Towards the end of the day, students "break the silence." This can take on many forms, such as rallies, assemblies, open mics, teach-ins, and meetings with administrators about changes that can be made in the school. Depending on how the silence in broke, participants may include students, school leaders, and community members. The intention is that LGBTQ students lead this part of the day and that allies, advocates, and adults support them. In the end, the goal of Day of Silence is to make the school more LGBTQ-inclusive.

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