A New Record for the Day of Silence

Wed. April 14, 2004 12:00 AM

New York, NY - The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, or GLSEN, is pleased to announce that the Day of Silence observed last Wednesday, April 21, 2004, was the most successful and widely supported since the student-led annual event’s inception in 1996. An estimated record 300,000 students from more than 3,000 K-12 schools, colleges and universities in all 50 states participated in the day’s events this year. The Day of Silence is an annual, national student-led effort in which participants take a vow of silence to peacefully protest the discrimination and harassment faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth in schools.

“The Day of Silence received an unprecedented outpouring of participation, support and attention this year which speaks to both the level of awareness that now exists around the harassment faced by LGBT students and the understanding that action must be taken to combat this very real and dangerous discrimination,” said GLSEN Executive Director Kevin Jennings. “I want to personally thank the Day of Silence 2004 National Student Leadership Team that worked to coordinate this activity across the country and the students and adults who organized observances and rallies in communities around the nation.”

For the first time this year, the Democratic National Committee and democratic presidential candidate John Kerry both issued statements in support of the Day of Silence. Senator Kerry noted as part of his statement, “I want to recognize the efforts of the youth across America who are participating in the National Day of Silence. Too many LGBT students are skipping school because they feel unsafe.”

The Republican National Committee and President Bush’s campaign were both informed about the Day of Silence and were invited to respond to the respective statements of support from Senator Kerry and the Democratic National Committee.

Additionally, Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) for the third year in a row introduced a resolution (H.CON.RES.86) calling on Congress to recognize the effort of students organizing the Day of Silence and encouraging units of local governments, states and school districts to protect LGBT students from discrimination and harassment. Congressman Sam Farr’s (D-CA) presentation of the resolution on the House floor was broadcast nationally on C-SPAN.

In addition to observances throughout the day on campuses, the capitol and campaign trail, many “Breaking the Silence” rallies, events at which students come together at the Day’s end to express themselves and share their experiences with guest speakers and members of their local communities, took place across the country. Communities and cities holding these events include, but were not limited too: Albany, NY; Austin, TX; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; Denver, CO; Durham, NC; Ferndale, MI; Fort Lauderdale, MI; Fresno, CA; Honolulu, HI; Kansas City, MO; Las Vegas, NV; Madison, WI; New York, NY; Orlando, FL; Oxford, GA; Portland, OR; Sarasota, FL; Syracuse, NY; Worcester, MA; Windsor, CT and many others.

GLSEN’s 2003 National School Climate Survey found that more than 4 out of 5 LGBT students report verbal, sexual or physical harassment at school and nearly 30% report missing at least a day of school in the past month out of fear for their personal safety. The Day of Silence is one way students and their allies are making anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and name-calling unacceptable in America’s schools.

About Day of Silence
The Day of Silence, a project of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) in collaboration with the United States Student Association (USSA), is a student-led day of action where those who support making anti-LGBT bias unacceptable in schools take a day-long vow of silence to recognize and protest the discrimination and harassment - in effect, the silencing - experienced by LGBT students and their allies. The Day of Silence was founded in 1996 by students at the University of Virginia, and in years since has become a landmark national event. For more information and a complete collection of organizing materials, log on to www.dayofsilence.org.

GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. Established nationally in 1995, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. For more information on GLSEN’s educational resources, public policy agenda, student organizing programs or development initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.