Day of Silence: Stand up for tolerance and respect | Amy Johnson

April 15 marks the 15th annual Day of Silence, where middle school, high school and college students come together to bring attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools.

LGBT is a common acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. Silence is used as an awareness tool because many LGBT youth choose to remain silent about their sexual orientation or gender identity because of threats to their safety.

According to the National Youth Association, more than one-third of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth have attempted suicide. For every lesbian, gay and bisexual youth who is bullied, four straight students who are perceived to be gay or lesbian are bullied.

Lack of tolerance around this issue affects all students, not only LGBT youth.

Thousands of students each year participate in the Day of Silence. Students, here are some things that can make your event go more smoothly, should you choose to participate in Federal Way on Friday, April 15. Parents, if your student plans to participate, here are some talking points to share with them so the experience is as positive as possible.

Talk to your administration and teachers ahead of time to let them know what you are planning. What works best is if everyone works together to promote and respect the safety of all students. You can also let your teachers know that you are planning to participate and see if they are willing for you to communicate in writing with them that day.

If you attend a public school, you have the right to participate in the Day of Silence or other expressions of your opinion during non-instructional time like breaks, lunch, and before and after school. Your school may support your not talking during class, or it may not. The support can even vary from teacher to teacher. Be a team player and participate in a way that allows you to express your opinion and respects the safety of the entire school.

Consider a “Breaking the Silence” rally or meeting after school to debrief the day. People can share their experiences about how their day went. If you want, you can invite other community members to join you so you can hear one another. Remember to have some ground rules about mutual respect and sharing in ways that don’t put others down.

To find out if your school is planning to participate, contact your school’s GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) club. To learn more about sponsoring a Day of Silence event at your school, go to www.dayofsilence.org.

Whatever your beliefs, stand up for tolerance and respect on April 15.

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