Across the nation last Friday students from over 8,000 colleges, universities, high schools, and middle schools campaign against discrimination by being silent.
COCC students along with students from many schools in Bend participated in the Day of Silence. Participants, throughout their daily routine, stay silent as a way to bring awareness to discrimination in schools against gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered students. The day is the largest student led action toward safer schools. The silence of the students signifies the silencing effect that bullying causes.
“Schools should be safe places for all students,” the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network Executive Director Eliza Byard said.
A study done by GLSEN revealed that 90 percent of gay, lesbian, Bi-sexual, and transgendered students have been harassed or assaulted. Most of the time the bullying comes from perceived sexual orientation. Bullying because of perceived sexual orientation caused Carl Joseph Walk-Hover to commit suicide at the age of eleven last April.
“I haven’t experienced discrimination at COCC, but there is tension,” said Alex Rice. Alex Rice attends the Gay Strait Alliance meetings at COCC. “You hear slurs.”
“Were trying to re-educate people or educate them for the first time in a lot of cases,” said Stef Jackson, the head of the GSA at COCC. “There’s a lot of anti-gay slurs that go around all over the place,” Jackson explained. “Lack of culture, lack of diversity in this community, a real lack of understanding and miscommunication… then there’s the whole religious thing,” Jackson said when asked why discrimination against LGBT exists.
The Day of Silence has seen opposition. The Day of Truth, founded by Exodus International, occurs the day following the silent protest. Students wear cards that read, “It’s time for an honest conversation about homosexuality. There’s freedom to change is you want to. Let’s talk.”
Student’s that participate in the day of silence are encouraged to hand out speaking cards to other students. The card this year read:
Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence (DOS), 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.
Students aren’t encouraged to be silent while classes are in session. GLESN’s website explains that students are encouraged to be silent during, “the breaks between classes, before and after the school day, lunchtime, and any other free times during your day.”
At the end of the day participants break the silence with The Night of Noise. College students like at COCC go out to a few bars to celebrate, while younger students celebrate by going out into the community to celebrate.
“Keep the conversation going!” encourages thedayofsilence.org to students who participated in the event.“The Day of Silence is the first step towards a deeper dialogue amongst members of your community about how to improve your school’s climate for LGBT and all students.”
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