Public Schools Must Allow GLSEN’s Day of Silence
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For the past two years, Lambda Legal has filed lawsuits on behalf of students who were denied the right to participate in GLSEN’s Day of Silence, the annual anti-bullying observance in support of LGBT students at their schools. Today we celebrate this year's National Day of Silence.
Every year, we get reports from students across the country who are told they cannot participate in GLSEN’s Day of Silence. Last year, we advocated in more than 100 schools around the nation to support students who had initially been blocked from participating in the Day of Silence. Most schools respond to our letters by respecting students’ rights to participate, but unfortunately, in the past two years, we have had to proceed to litigation.
Last year, we filed a lawsuit on behalf of Maverick Couch, an openly gay junior in Ohio who was threatened with suspension for wearing a T-shirt bearing the message "Jesus Is Not a Homophobe," on GLSEN’s Day of Silence. Maverick won the right to wear his T-shirt to school any day he chooses.
On February 26 of this year, we filed suit on behalf of Amber Hatcher, an openly lesbian 16-year-old who was punished for participating in GLSEN’s Day of Silence last year. The school district changed its position as a result of the litigation, but the case continues, in order to ensure that the policy or practice invoked last year by school officials to interfere with Day of Silence activities is declared unconstitutional, so that the school district cannot again deny its students’ constitutional rights.
We’re glad that Amber and other students will be able to participate in GLSEN’s Day of Silence this year. Today, Amber joins thousands of students across the country who will take some form of a vow of silence to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools. The message for schools across the country should be clear—adopt and follow policies that respect all students.
This is an important first step, but a student’s First Amendment rights are not restricted to one day a year. Amber and Maverick are just two of countless young people across the country who wish to attend school without fear of harassment and bullying—Lambda Legal will support them 365 days a year.
Read the fact sheet: National Day of Silence: The Freedom to Speak (Or Not)