Day of Silence
Also known as
GLSEN Day of Silence
on April 21st (2017)
on April 27th (2018)
on April 12th (2019)
on April 24th (2020)
on April 23rd (2021)
University of Virginia students in 1996
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.
How to Observe
Here are some suggestions on how to prepare for and observe the day:
- K-12 students can start by registering.
- Afterwards, school administrators can be talked to, so they are aware you are participating in the day, and so that they can be asked for support. Use the "Quick Guide to Meeting with Decision-makers" and the "Breaking the Silence Letter Generator" to help you.
- You could continue preparing for the day by joining the Street Team. As a member, you will encourage other students to register and participate in the day. You could also use the "How to Lead Day of Silence Organizing" and "Ways to Participate in Day of Silence" pages on the GLSEN website to help you prepare for the day. Knowing your rights on the day is another important way to prepare. Read Lambda's Legal outline so you are aware of them.
- Spend the day in silence! Depending on how you prepared for the day, you could be completely silent at all times, or just be silent while in the halls, during lunch, and during other down times. You could also stay off social media for the day.
- At the end of the school day, break the silence. Participate in a rally, assembly, open mic, teach-in, or meeting with administrators.
- Follow up after the day. Check in with the administration to see if changes are being made. Start a GSA (Gay-straight alliance) or advertise an existing GSA.
- Educators can also register for the day. They can then prepare for the day by talking with the administration about the importance of the day, and by supporting students who participate. They can use the "Day of Silence Educator Guide" and curriculum resources to further prepare.
- If you are not a student, educator, or administrator, you can still be involved with the day. If you have children or grandchildren, you can talk to them about the day. Similarly, if you know educators or administrators, you could encourage them to support the day. You could also become active in your community with LGBTQ issues. Community members sometimes participate in "breaking the silence" at schools, and perhaps you could assist in this capacity. You could also pick up some gear from the Day of Silence store to show your support.
- Stay up-to-date on the day by following the Day of Silence Facebook and Twitter pages.