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The National Day of Silence® (DOS)

More about the DOS; its history
Why is the DOS needed? Commentary.

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More about the DOS:

One participant justified the use of silence by saying:

"Silence sometimes speaks louder than words. Being silent not only allows you to feel how someone who is oppressed feels, but it also allows others to see what they are missing when they oppress others so that they cannot speak out. I decided to participate because it was an ingenious alternative to noisy rallies which seem to anger people, distracting from the overall meaning of the demonstration."

Red is the official DOS color; participants wear red t-shirts, buttons, stickers, face paint, etc. Participants are told to be respectful to others. Their website states:

"There are likely people at your school who will try to challenge your silence, your activities or your beliefs. Treat these people not as they treat you but with the same respect you hope to be treated with. Remember, the Day of Silence is a peaceful demonstration!" 1

Students have the right to be silent at school, with the exception of instances when a teacher asks a participating student to speak. Students are allowed to wear buttons, T-shirts, etc. that express their opinions. There is no lower age limit to the freedom of speech guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Students do not leave their rights behind when they enter school property. Lambda Legal, a principal LGBT human rights organization has provided a Q & A document on student rights. 2

The DOS project has an organizing manual to help students organize their local Day of Silence. 3 They also have an enormous selection of resources, ranging from speaking cards and flyers, to T-shirts and sample letters to school administrators, businesses, school clubs, and the media. 4

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History:

In 1996, Maria Pulzetti -- an 18 year old student at the University of Virginia -- wrote an essay about nonviolent protesting and grassroots organizing. This inspired her to organize what she called the Day of Silence. Over 150 students participated, including lesbians, gays, transgender persons, transsexuals, their supporters, and human rights advocates.

The success of the first Day of Silence motivated Maria to expand the concept across the U.S. She was joined by Jessie Gilliam, 19. The program was renamed the National Day of Silence in 1997 and was observed at nearly 100 colleges and universities. Some schools in Australia organized a similar project for their schools. In 1998, high school students joined in, raising the number of schools participating to over 200.

In 1999 Advocates for Youth sponsored the campaign. Volunteers from across the U.S. met in Boston for a coordinating meeting. Chloe Palenchar, 18, joined the movement as National Project Coordinator. More than 300 schools participated.

In 2001, GLSEN became the official sponsor, and the project formed a partnership with the United States Student Association.

In 2002, the DOS was observed in more than 1,900 schools; an estimated 100,000 students took part. By 2008, the Day was observed at over 8,000 schools, colleges and universities. More than 50 media outlets, including USA Today, MSNBC, CNN, Voice of America, and NPR carried stories about the events.

In 2008, the project was held in the memory of Lawrence King. He was a 15-year-old student in Oxnard, CA, who had been shot and killed by a 14-year-old fellow student because of his sexual orientation and gender expression. 5

The 2010 DOS will recall Carl Walker, aged 11, who was continually bullied at school, partly because of his perceived sexual orientation. Like most students who are harassed because of their perceived orientation, he was not actually gay. He committed suicide on 2009-APR-06.

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A commentary by a parental guidance advisor and mother:

Corine Ingrassia writes commentaries on parenting news and shares personal stories on NJ.com. On 2010-APR-16, she wrote:

"Discrimination and bullying issues against students who are, or are suspected-to-be gay has been an issue teens have faced for years. When I was in High School, I had a friend who was a target of such verbal abuse. When it started he denied the accusations and tried to let them roll off his back- but around junior year he announced that he was bi-sexual. I think he thought this would have curbed some of the verbal attacks he was subjected to every day. Sadly, it did not. It only got worse."

"I can remember vividly, another male classmate of ours would crack joke after joke about my friend's sexuality. It was not funny. It was obnoxious. My friend pretended it did not bother him. He focused his mind else where and began obsessing over his weight, at points passing out in class from not eating and by the time we graduated High School he was a shell of the teen he once was not only physically but emotionally."

"It wasn't until college that he officially came out. He was not bi-sexual. He was gay. He had known it for quite sometime but until then he was not comfortable in his own skin to say it out loud."

"The teenage years play such a crucial part of who we become as adults. My children are still young but I believe it is important to teach our children not only that it is a ok to be who you are but to also teach our children to respect their peers rights as well and not to pass judgment. Sexuality is only a small piece of what makes a person and does not define."

"Ironically, years later my friend came face to face again with that classmate who once bullied him daily- at a gay bar."

"If there were thousands of teens rallying around the message today's Day of Silence is sending, possibly this classmate of ours might not have felt pressure to hide his sexuality by directing statements of hate at another teen who wanted nothing more than he wanted himself- to be accepted."

"Would you support your teens choice to partake in today's Day of Silence?" 6

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References:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Day of Silence organizer,"" GSLEN, 2010-APR-12, at: http://blog.dayofsilence.org/
  2. "GLSEN's Day of Silence: The freedom to speak (or not)," Lambda Legal, at: http://dayofsilence.org/  This is a PDF file.
  3. The "Day of Silence project Organizing Manual" can be downloaded from http://www.dayofsilence.org/downloads You need software to read this file. It can be obtained free from:
  4. Day of Silence resources are listed at: http://www.dayofsilence.org/oresources.html
  5. "The history of the Day of Silence," GLSEN, at: http://www.dayofsilence.org/
  6. Corine Ingrassiam "Strong words, softly spoken: Day Of silence supports gay & lesbian teens," NJ.com, 2010-APR-16, at: http://www.nj.com/

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Site navigation: Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > Agenda & news > DOS > here

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Copyright © 2002 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-APR-7
Latest update: 2010-APR-19
Author: B.A. Robinson

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