HS Students to Observe "Day of Silence"

by Dean Masullo, GSA Faculty Moderator 

On Friday, April 15, 2016, students on high school, college, and university campuses across the United States will take a day-long vow of silence—an act of recognition of, and solidarity with, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people everywhere who are bullied and intimidated into a silence of their own.
Among the participants will be high school students at USN under the leadership of the division’s Gay-Straight Alliance.  
 
“It’s important for us to recognize the place of privilege that we are in, going to a school where students are accepted for who they are,” said Henry Hicks ‘17. “There are so many LGBTQ+ youth who cannot be open with their sexualities, and it’s our obligation to raise awareness of those in a situation where they cannot speak for and about themselves openly.”
 
“Day of Silence is a day when those who participate can understand how it feels to have our voices stolen from us,” said Zoe Bauer ’16, the president of the GSA,  “and those who do not participate can learn what happens to a community when a group of us is silenced.”
 
“I think the significance of Day of Silence is two-fold,” said Molly Sullivan ’16. “It's a sort of Memorial Day for the LGBTQ+ community, a reminder of all the people now and in the past who—by force or by choice—have been silenced because of their sexual and/or gender identities. I think Day of Silence also has the ability to get people outside the LGBTQ+ community to sit up and take notice of the suffering that the community continually goes through out of ignorance and hate. In an era when communication by word of mouth and technology are both common, voluntarily staying silent sends a huge message and encourages people to pay attention to the cause, hopefully for the better.”
 
Eleanor Koch ’17 added, “Day of Silence is incredibly important to me. At USN, I sometimes push aside my own recognition of the presence of hatred and discrimination towards the LGBTQ+ community, because despite being a queer person myself, I don't often have to face that hatred personally. The fact that many people still have to hide something is relevant for me, and for all of us, for whether we are queer or not, it's a topic that starts and must end with us as people.”
 
The Day of Silence comes on the heels of another USN gathering that vividly illustrates all of these points and more. This past Friday, in an expression of solidarity and support, the GSA and the Student Theater Guild hosted students from the Franklin County High School GSA, a group that has attracted national attention after a concerted and contentious attempt—ongoing, as of this writing—to revoke their right to meet as a student organization. Over sixty students from both schools met to share a meal, to get to know each other, and to watch the Theater Guild’s production of The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later, a play that depicts the aftermath of the murder of Matthew Shepard, a freshman at the University of Wyoming who, in 1998, was beaten to death because he was gay.
 
In recent weeks, the GSA has been in close consultation with high school faculty and administration to facilitate the Day of Silence. “Our aim is to enhance instruction, not impede it,” said Zoe. “We want to increase our community’s awareness of LGBTQ+ issues and history, but we also want to respect the larger goals of teaching and learning in the high school. We’ve worked very hard to make that happen, and we’re confident the event will be a success—we’re excited to share this day with all of you.”
 
Students in the high school can participate in the Day of Silence in one of three ways: they can choose to remain silent all day, both in and out of class; they can choose to speak in class for the purposes of participation, but remain silent otherwise; or they can chose to be silent both in and out of class with the exception of partner quizzes, oral presentations, and other graded assessments.
 
Students are required to register by sending an e-mail to the GSA at gsa@usn.org; the registration deadline is Friday, April 8. The Day of Silence will conclude with a “Breaking the Silence” ice cream social at the end of the school day, hosted by the GSA.  
 
Below is a promotional video for the USN Day of Silence. For further information, contact the GSA at gsa@usn.org.  
 
 
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