Students Of Southwestern
Could You Live In Silence Day After Day?
On May 19, close to 100 Southwestern students and staff experienced a small dose of what many LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual) experience every day. They chose to be silent for the National Day of Silence. Participation in this event was a symbolic gesture of how LGBTQIA people often feel silenced or marginalized in school, at home and in their communities. Their silence is often due to fear of saying the wrong thing and being “exposed,” bullied or thrown out of their homes.
The Day of Silence was organized by Southwestern’s LGBTQIA club, Spectrum, in conjunction with the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and hundreds of other high schools, middle schools, colleges and universities across the country. Students registered throughout the week pledging to be silent all day on Friday during non-instructional time. Registered students and staff filled out posters that read, “I am silent for …”, expressing the reason they wanted to participate. They are hanging around the display case in the main hall. Mrs. Lovecchio, Spectrum advisor, commented, “It was surprising how many students had stories to share with me about friends, family or themselves. (Stories) about the challenges and struggles they, or people in their lives, have experienced because they are LGTBQIA. It was very sobering.”
Students received a sticker to wear for the day that identified them as a participant. Although students were required to speak in class if needed, the rest of the day was dedicated to silence. At the end of the day during EET, all participants met in the cafeteria for a “Break the Silence” gathering. Students shared their stories and experiences of constantly having to be mindful not to speak. All agreed that it was definitely challenging. Participants then filled out “Call to Action” posters that read, “I will break the silence by ….” Mr. Kirsch and the photography Club took “selfie” pictures of many of the participants and their call to action statements.
The National Day of Silence is a project through the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN), a leading national education organization focused on promoting safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. This student-led national event brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying, harassment and intolerance in schools. The pledge to be silence encourages schools, students and staff to address the problem of anti-LGBT behavior by illustrating the silencing effect of bullying and harassment on LGBT students and those perceived to be LGBT. Their website, www.GLSEN.org has a wealth of information. Gay & Lesbian Youth Services of Western New York, at www. glyswny.org, also offers a variety of resources for LGBTQIA students and their allies.
One goal of the SWCS district is to create a safe environment where all students will be ready to learn. The Day of Silence acknowledges that feeling safe at school is a challenge for many LGBTQIA students and that these students often live in silence because they are afraid not to. Southwestern school has taken a step in the right direction toward making our school a safe place for all students by hosting the second Day of Silence event.