National Day of Silence promotes anti-bullying of LGBT students

By Robyn Langley

This year’s National Day of Silence for the LGBT community is April 15. It is a student-led movement protesting bullying of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender students and their supporters.

Nine out of 10 LGBT students are still harassed at schools each year just because of how they identify.

During Day of Silence, participating students take a day-long vow of silence to illustrate how name calling, intimidation and general bullying has a silencing effect on victims.

The Day of Silence has reached New Zealand, Singapore, Russia and students in all 50 states. More than 10,000 students register with he Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) for their Day of Silence participation each year.

Formed in 1990, GLSEN is a national education organization focused on ensuring safe school environments for all students. The first Day of Silence was organized by University of Virginia students in 1996 where they responded to an assignment on non-violent protests. Within the next year they took the efforts nationwide and nearly 100 universities participated. GLSEN adopted the Day of Silence in 2001 to bring attention to anti-LGBT sentiments and sponsor the event.

The GLSEN 2014 National School Climate survey found out that 74 percent of LGBT students were verbally harassed because of sexual orientation and 55 percent were verbally harassed because of gender expression. Thirty percent of LGBT students missed at least one day of school in past month as a result of harassment and 65 percent of the LGBT students heard homophobic remarks.

Physical harassment and assault is still an issue LGBT students face; 33 percent were harassed because of sexual orientation, 23 percent were harassed because of gender expression, 17 percent were assaulted because of sexual orientation and 11 percent were assaulted because of gender expression. Thirty-three percent of LGBT students heard negative remarks about transgender specifically and 56 percent report experiencing LGBT related discriminatory policies.

According to GLSEN, LGBT students experiencing victimization at school have poorer psychological health and worse educational outcomes, with grade point averages between 9 and 15 percent lower than average. Students with 11 or more supportive staff were likely to feel safer than those without and had higher GPA’s (3.3 vs. 2.8). Unfortunately only 39 percent of students could identify 11 or more supportive staff.

Those with supportive communities report more success, at schools with LGBT-inclusive curriculum where students feel safer. However only 19 percent of LGBT students were taught positive representations of LGBT people, history or events.

According to GLSEN, there has been lower incidence rate of homophobic remarks from more than 80 percent in 2001 to 60 percent today.

Students can show support and help participate in the movement by using #NationalDayofSilence on social media.

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