Day of Silence: Lambda Legal Stands with LGBTQ Students and Their Allies

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April 7, 2016
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This blog post was co-authored by Aisha Davis, Tyron Garner Fellow, and Christopher Clark, Young Adults, Teens and Children Program Strategist .

GLSEN's annual Day of Silence is a powerful annual expression of strength and solidarity. This year, it takes place as elected representatives in North Carolina, Mississippi and elsewhere move aggressively to enact hateful anti-LGBTQ legislation that will serve only to heighten the very anti-LGBTQ bullying that Day of Silence seeks to combat.

Accordingly, as students prepare to stand up for themselves and their classmates on April 15th, we at Lambda Legal are gearing up to support these young people in their efforts to end anti-LGBTQ bullying.

Day of Silence Legal FAQs: The Freedom to Speak (Or Not)

Day of Silence is a student-led event that brings attention to anti-LGBTQ bullying that takes place in schools. It began in 1996 with students at the University of Virginia and has since spread to high schools, middle schools and junior high schools, colleges and universities across the country and around the world.

On April 15, students in this country will exercise their rights under the First Amendment by choosing to remain silent during the school day—a protest that demonstrates how anti-LGBTQ bullying silences students. This important message communicated through silence helps to trigger more conversations in our nation’s schools about homophobic and transphobic bullying.

Day of Silence is as important as ever. LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming (GNC) students still face rampant bullying among their peers. In GLSEN’s 2013 National School Climate Survey, over 74% of students reported being verbally harassed due to their sexual orientation, and over 55% reported being verbally harassed because of their gender expression. Over 64% heard homophobic remarks frequently at school, more than 33% frequently heard transphobic remarks, and over 51% heard derogatory remarks from teachers or other school staff. Approximately half of the students surveyed experienced cyber-bullying.

These numbers not only indicate the lack of safe school environments for LGBTQ and GNC students; they also mean that many students are still likely to experience the negative effects that bullying has on education and health. LGBTQ and GNC students who report feeling unsafe at school are more likely to miss classes and skip entire days of school, are more likely to have poor academic performance and self-esteem, and have increased levels of depression, anxiety and substance abuse.

Students: Register For Day of Silence

Sadly, the bullying of LGBTQ and GNC students has spread to state legislatures around the country. The recent passage of North Carolina’s HB 2 and Mississippi’s HB 1523 are two of numerous attempts to police students and prevent them from accessing restrooms and other sex-segregated facilities in accordance with their gender identities.

Similar mean-spirited bills targeting LGBTQ students are active in many states around the country including in Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

Students participating in Day of Silence bring awareness to the bullying that has continued to affect LGBTQ and GNC students, and Lambda Legal continues to ensure that schools do not impede their ability to do so. As GLSEN’s legal partner for National Day of Silence, we advocate every year on behalf of students whose attempts to participate are being thwarted by hostile administrators.

Over the years, we have successfully represented students around the country who courageously contacted us when school administrators try to shut down their right to peaceful protest. We are proud of this work and we will continue to stand behind LGBTQ students in their efforts to speak out against bullying.

If you need more information about students’ rights in school, visit www.lambdalegal.org/know-your-rights/youth. If you have any questions, have been discriminated against, or know others who have been discriminated against based on Day of Silence or because of sexual orientation, contact Lambda Legal’s Help Desk at 1-866-542-8336 or www.dayofsilence.org/legalhelp.