Religious Right Howls Over Student ‘Day of Silence’
This Friday, students all over America will choose to remain quiet in school. They’ll be participating in the Day of Silence, an annual event designed to protest the bias and bullying that often silences gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered students.
The premise behind the event is simple: Students attend classes but do not speak for the entire day. The Day of Silence isn’t sponsored by the schools. It’s run by students, often through a Gay-Straight Alliance Club that many schools now have. (Ironically, these clubs exist thanks to a federal law backed by Religious Right groups, which were eager to get Christian clubs into public schools.)
Every year, Religious Right organizations throw a fit about the Day of Silence. In recent years, the American Family Association has gone as far as to implore parents to actually keep their kids home if other students in the school are taking part in the event.
That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. How are fundamentalist teens negatively affected because some of their peers choose not to speak for a day? What’s it to them?
I got curious as to how the Day of Silence plays out on the ground, so last night I asked my daughter, a high school senior who has participated in the project in the past and plans to do so this year, to explain to me how it works in her school.
Claire said it’s very simple. At the start of the day, students who want to remain silent get a sticker from the Gay-Straight Alliance and wear it all day. This lets fellow students and teachers know that that this student is taking part and won’t be speaking.
It’s up to each teacher to decide how to respond to this. Claire is aware that she’s running a risk. She said her Spanish teacher in particular values class participation, and she knows that the teacher has the right to penalize students who refuse to take part in her class. Sanctions can include getting a failing grade for the day or even in-school detention.