By Jenna Kosinski
Andover High School recently participated in the annual “Day of Silence,” which is
a student-led effort organized by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). It is a day in which students around the country who support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights take a day-long “vow of silence” to protest the silencing of students in the face of bullying and harassment.
The Day of Silence has been held each year in April since 1996, and has become a way for students to “show solidarity for victims of bullying”. This year Andover High School had approximately 200 people who participated (more than last year). Those who participated wore stickers supporting the LGBT community. Andover High submits its numbers to the GLSEN and they are included into the national totals. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of students participate each year in all 50 states.
The GLSEN is a national organization that is focused on ensuring safe schools around the country. The GLSEN’s goal is to “assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.” A study done in Massachusetts schools in 2011 by the GLSEN showed that 92% of LGBT students heard the word “gay” being used in a negative way regularly at school, along with other homophobic remarks. Although this number is staggering, the study also showed that 98% of LGBT students had at least one teacher or advisor in school that was LGBT supportive, which is major progress in the country today.
Ms. Burch, one of the two teachers who runs the Gay-Straight Alliance at Andover High, says that she “[hoped] the Day of Silence [made] the school and general community aware of how students, not just the LGBT, can be silenced because they may fear bullying, harassment or discrimination.” She also says that “most New England and Massachusetts schools are insulated compared to other states. In certain places, people are [victimized] if they are GLBT. She says “it is wonderful to be in such a supportive school and a safe environment”.
The Gay-Straight Alliance meets on Wednesdays after school at 2:15 in room 321, and it is run by Ms. Burch and Ms. Mitchell. The Day of Silence is a day of youth empowerment, activism and inspiration. No one should be silenced by fear, or silenced because of who they are, and the Day of Silence is a step in the direction toward equality for everyone.