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April 11, 2008

Student Day of Silence
observance meets with opposition


Cleveland--The Cleveland LGBT Center will take the Day of Silence out of schools and into the Tremont neighborhood with a Breaking the Silence celebration at Pilgrim Congregational UCC on April 25.

The Day of Silence began 12 years ago as a way to protest the silencing of LGBT students through violence, harassment and intimidation. Since then, observance has spread to students at thousands of schools across the country, ranging from middle schools to universities.

This year’s Day of Silence is in honor of Larry King, a 15-year-old student in California who was slain earlier this year by a classmate. It is believed his murder was due to his sexual orientation and gender identity.

While there is always controversy surrounding the Day of Silence, this year promises to take that to the next level, as a coalition of religious right organizations is advocating that parents keep their children home from school on that Friday if they believe the school will participate in the Day of Silence. They are also promoting an anti-gay “Day of Truth” the following Monday.

Mission America of Columbus, one of the groups in the coalition, issued a list of schools that will be participating, as well as one of those that will not.

However, as even the organization itself admits, participation in the Day of Silence is seldom done by school administrations; it was envisioned as a grassroots movement among students to bring attention to bullying and harassment.

Among the schools that Mission America says is “not participating” in the Day of Silence is North Olmsted High School, whose Spectrum gay-straight alliance was one of the state’s earliest and most notable such groups in a public school.

In all, the anti-gay coalition lists 24 Ohio schools as not participating, while they show 31 schools that are, all in the K-12 range. Many college and university LGBT organizations hold their own Day of Silence events as well.

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, which coordinates the Day of Silence, notes that opponents do not come up with constructive ways to deter bullying and often mischaracterize the goals of the Day of Silence.

“Some critics of the Day of Silence come from the perspective of ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy or from the perspective of ‘transformational ministries,’ ” the Day of Silence website says, using several terms for “exgay” programs. “It is important to note that ‘reparative therapy’ has been rejected by all the major health and mental health professions. Additionally, the view of ‘transformational ministry’ adherents is not representative of the views of all people of faith.”

“Finally, the Day of Silence is about unacceptable behavior (anti-LGBT bullying, harassment, and name-calling in schools) not debates about beliefs,” it concludes.

Mission America’s website claims, “This pro-homosexual day communicates clear (and false) messages to all students in the school that: homosexuality is a worthy lifestyle; that it has few or no risks; that some people are ‘born’ homosexual, including students; and that those who oppose this behavior are hateful and uninformed.”

They make no mention on their site of the stated goal of the Day of Silence, the opposition to bullying, instead arguing repeatedly that the day pushes a “forced enthusiastic acceptance” of homosexuality.

Regardless of whether or not a school is “participating,” however, an estimated 50,000 students across the nation will speak out on April 25, without saying a word.


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