The National Day of Silence (DOS)
Negative reactions towards the DOS
social and religious conservatives
This is a continuation of Part 1
Review by FOX news:
Four days before the 2010 DOS, FOX news published a report on the DOS. An anonymous reporter stated that:
"... family advocacy groups warn that GLSEN is using the day to try to indoctrinate kids and force a pro-gay agenda into schools — something they want kept out of class entirely."
However, essentially all of the activity by GLSEN is dedicated to reducing harassment, bullying, name-calling and violence against sexual minorities and students perceived as being a sexual minority. That seems to be their entire "agenda:" to provide a safe learning environment for all students.
Fox news quotes Laurie Higgins, director of school advocacy for the Illinois Family Institute (IFI):
"I think that we shouldn't be exploiting public education for this. There are better ways to use taxpayer money. We send our kids there to learn the subject matter, not ... to be unwillingly exposed to political protest during instructional time."
"Critics say the anti-bullying message could have been spread after hours and off-campus, but GLSEN's choice of venue shows the group's intent for the schools."
Fox quotes Bryan Fischer, director of issues analysis at the American Family Association (AFA), who said.
"Obviously this is intended to make an impact on the educational environment — otherwise they wouldn't be doing it at school. The only impact it could possibly have would be to interfere with class."
However, in their Q & A section on the Day of Silence website, 1 GLSEN specifically states that students should speak whenever the teacher asks them a question and can remain silent only in the hallways, before and after class, etc.
Both the AFA and IFI are asking that parents keep their children at home if their school participates in the Day of Silence. Higgins said:
"This is definitely a last-resort option. but school administrators have not listened to parents and teachers. Teachers who object to this are afraid to say anything, afraid of personal and professional repercussions." 2
And so, the main actors in this controversy are at loggerheads.
- Religious and social conservatives maintain that it is the teachers and school administration who are being terrorized by LGBT students and their heterosexual supporters.
- LGBT students and those perceived as LGBT maintain that they are being terrorized by fellow students, and sometimes by teachers and the school administration.
Since no communication appears possible between conservatives and GLSEN, the conflict is certain to continue.
Focus on the Family:
Kim Trobee of CitizenLink.com -- a service of Focus on the Family Action -- wrote an article four days before the 2010 Day of Silence. In the article, Candi Cushman, education analyst for Focus on the Family, commented that:
"... the event turns kids into political lobbyists for GLSEN's adult-driven agenda."
"We agree that every student should be protected from bullying and harassment and that no student should be hurt or ridiculed, no matter who they are or what they believe. But parents need to be aware that the Day of Silence unnecessarily politicizes and sexualizes the school environment, paving the way for classroom lessons that advocate and normalize things like same-sex marriage and cross-dressing." 3
Trobee discusses the Day of Truth which is being promoted by Exodus International. That is a conservative Christian group whose main effort involves helping adult lesbians and gays remain celibate and helping adult bisexuals restrict their relationships to members of the opposite sex. The Day of Truth is scheduled to coincide with the Day of Silence. Their theme for 2010 is: "Get the Conversation Started."
Exodus will be providing cards to conservative Christian students that read:
"People with differing, even opposing viewpoints, can freely exchange ideas and respectfully listen to each other. It's time for an honest conversation about the biblical truth for sexuality. Let's get the conversation started!"
One problem is that in an atmosphere of fear resulting from bullying, physical attacks, name-calling and other forms of harassment, it is a little difficult for conservative Christians and LGBT students to communicate with each other. The situation is exacerbated by the very active role that many conservative religious groups have played in preventing equal rights for LGBTs. Friction is further intensified by the policies of many religious groups to expel LGBT members when they are found. A better approach would probably be to first work together to lower the level of fear in the school by reducing levels of harassment. After that is done, the chances for the useful interchange of ideas would be improved. Unfortunately, it would require the Day of Silence groups to work towards the goals of the Day of Silence.
It is not clear why "biblical truth for sexuality" should be the topic of communication, since the public schools are a religiously neutral environment. Also, there is no such thing as "biblical truth" on matters of homosexuality and bisexuality. There is only a group of beliefs by conservative and liberal theologians concerning "biblical truths." There is no consensus within Christianity about what the six or so "clobber passages" in the Bible that deal with homosexuality actually mean.
Article in the New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper:
At least one parent was outraged that students who took part in the Day of Silence were given credits towards their "Democracy in Action" requirement of the Real World Learning program. These credits are given when students take part in civic meetings or participate in political events. They were unaware that they would receive the credits when they signed up to participate in the Day of Silence.
Bob Jozokos, the school's interim principal, said:
"When you read the statement about the Day of Silence, it has a political nature to it. It talks about laws and such, and it's kind of a democratic statement when students are speaking out for rights of any group. ... I'm not looking at the value statement so much. I'm looking to see if it falls under the idea of getting kids involved in democracy and speaking their mind and becoming part of the process that we value in this country."
The Day of Silence was sponsored and organized by the school's Gay/Straight Alliance -- a student club. Superintendent of Schools Tim Mayes said all school clubs are student-run. The administration does not endorse or deny status to any club based on political ideology. Mayes said:
"They're abiding by the principles and mission of our school, and I think we support that as an organization. So if there was another club that, again, fit the mission and principles of our school in an opposing view, I guess we'd have to acknowledge that as well."
In fact, the administration would have no other choice under the federal Equal Access law. If one club is allowed to organize, almost all must be permitted to form.
Bedford resident Devin Farrelly quoted what she described as an e-mail from a school counselor asking teachers to sign off on Real World Learning hours for participating students. She wrote:
"This is democracy in action? The fact that there is a student group for homosexuals is not the issue, but the fact that a school district official urged teachers to give students credit for participating in a controversial event is unacceptable.
She was also concerned that the event was not publicized in the school's newsletter or calendar. She wrote:
"As taxpayers and parents, we should be aware of just how our children are being indoctrinated at Bedford High School."
This appears to be a no-win situation for the High School. If they had publicized the event, then Farrelly might well have been doubly incensed about indoctrination.
She may have misunderstood the nature of the Day of Silence. The main goal is to make the high school a safe place so that learning is enhanced. The sponsoring organization is not a homosexual advocacy, activist, protest, or promotion group. As its name implies, it is made up of lesbian, gay, bisexual and perhaps transgender and transsexual students, with many heterosexual supporters. Surveys have shown that most of students who suffer harassment and physical attacks because they are perceived as gay or lesbian are in fact heterosexual. Thus, if they are successful, it is mainly heterosexual students who will enjoy freedom from abuse.
It is worth noting that the 2010 Day of Silence recalled Carl Walker, aged 11. He was continually bullied at school, partly because of his perceived sexual orientation. He was not actually gay. He was unable to handle the abuse and so committed suicide on 2009-APR-06.
The letters from readers commenting on the Union Leader article are worth reading. Their fear and hatred is obvious. 4
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "GLSEN's Day of Silence: The freedom to speak (or not)," Lambda Legal, at: http://dayofsilence.org/ This is a PDF file.
- "Gay Day of Silence a Waste of Tax Dollars, Critics Say," Fox news, 2010-APR-12, at: http://www.foxnews.com/
- Kim Trobee, "Day of Silence, Day of Truth Make Bid to Influence the Nation's Youth," CitizenLink, 2010-APR-12, at: http://www.citizenlink.org/
- Greg Kwasnik, "Bedford students credited for gay rights event," New Hampshire Union Leader, 2010-APR-19, at: http://www.unionleader.com/
Copyright © 2002 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2002-APR-7
Latest update: 2010-APR-21
Author: B.A. Robinson