Day of Silence at Bryan Adams High School

Bryan Adams has become one of the safest high schools in Dallas for LGBT teens. More than 100 students have joined the school’s gay-straight alliance.

GSA adviser Danielle Jones sent over a few pictures of the school’s National Day of Silence observation held on Friday.

According to GLSEN, National Day of Silence is a day of action in which students across the country vow to take a form of silence to call attention to the silencing effect of LGBT bullying and harassment in schools.

Founded in 1996, the Day of Silence has become the largest single student-led action towards creating safer schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

—  David Taffet

What’s Brewing: Boehner defends House hearing on ‘defending marriage’; civil unions in Delaware

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A U.S. House subcommittee is holding a hearing this morning on “defending marriage.” Republican House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday defended the hearing as a “legitimate” use of government resources. Those scheduled to testify include anti-gay activist Maggie Gallagher, chair of the National Organization for Marriage.

2. The Delaware House on Thursday voted 26-15 to approve a measure that would legalize civil unions. The bill, which already cleared the Senate, now goes to Gov. Jack Markell, who has said he will sign it. Delaware would be the eighth state to allow civil unions or domestic partnerships.

3. Today is the Day of Silence.

—  John Wright

Flour Bluff High School GSA to hold inaugural meeting on Day of Silence

Bianca “Nikki” Peet accepts her GLAAD Special Recognition Award from actress Kirsten Dunst on Sunday in Los Angeles.

Great news on the eve of the Day of Silence.

Nearly two months after the Flour Bluff Independent School District made national news by refusing to allow a chapter of the Gay Straight Alliance, the GSA will meet on Friday for the first time, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reports tonight.

After the district denied 17-year-old student Bianca “Nikki” Peet’s application to start the GSA, the American Civil Liberties Union threatened legal action and hundreds of LGBT advocates rallied outside Flour Bluff High School.

The district revised its policies to allow the GSA, but then the group’s faculty sponsor reportedly backed out due to the controversy. Under the new policies, Flour Bluff Principal James Crenshaw will monitor the group’s meetings. The ACLU of Texas says it will also continue to monitor the situation to ensure that the GSA receives equal access.

Peet, 17, was honored by GLAAD for her efforts to start the GSA on Sunday in Los Angeles. She was also was named one of The Advocate magazine’s Forty Under 40. Below is video of Peet accepting her GLAAD Special Recognition Award from actress Kirsten Dunst.

—  John Wright

Local youth plan Day of Silence observances

SILENT DAY | Members of Youth First Texas gathered at Rosa Parks Plaza in Downtown Dallas for the 2010 Day of Silence. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Youth First Texas to ‘break silence’ with candlelight vigil, dinner, dance

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

National Day of Silence takes on special meaning this year after a number of highly publicized suicides highlighted the bullying faced by LGBT youth in schools. The observance is held on Friday, April 15, this year.

During the day, hundreds of thousands of students nationwide bring awareness to the problem of bullying and harassment in schools by taking a vow of silence. Some wear tape over their mouths.

Participating students hand out cards to explain the reason for their silence. In less sympathetic school environments, some are silent only during lunch or before and after school. The event is organized nationwide by GLSEN.

Youth First Texas will hold a breaking the silence candlelight vigil at the YFT center at 5:30 p.m. Then they will go to Cathedral of Hope for dinner and a dance at the Interfaith Peace Chapel.

Last year, a group from YFT met at Rosa Parks Plaza in Downtown Dallas to break the silence. During the evening commute, they sat in a circle near the West End DART station with mouths taped and handed out information to those who stopped.

At University of Texas at Dallas, National Day of Silence will be observed at the Women’s Center from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday.

At Southern Methodist University, students held a silent worship service followed by an open mike talent show sponsored by the LGBT student group Spectrum in the Hughes Trigg student center on Thursday in advance of the official day. Then on Friday they planned to set up a table in the middle of campus to hand out information silently about Day of Silence.

GLSEN advises students that they have a right to participate in Day of Silence between classes and before and after school but not necessarily in class.

According to a document for students prepared by Lambda Legal, the right to free speech includes the right to not speak. But free speech doesn’t necessarily extend to the classroom. If a teacher tells a student to answer a question during class, the student doesn’t have the constitutional right to refuse.

According to GLSEN, Day of Silence encourages schools to adopt comprehensive anti-bullying policies. Staff needs to be trained to recognize anti-LGBT harassment and implement these policies.

Students are encouraged to form Gay-Straight Alliances on campus to address bullying at school. GLSEN works with GSAs and schools to create curricula to help students respect and understand differences within the school community.

This is the 15th year of Day of Silence, which started at the University of Virginia. Over the next few years, more schools began to participate and GLSEN took over the event in 2001.
GLSEN estimates that students in 10 percent of schools nationwide participate.

Ryan Schwartz of GLSEN’s national office in New York said that as of early this week, 362 students in Texas including participants from 12 schools in Dallas had already registered.

“There are usually dozens of students that participate for every one that registers,” he said.

Last year, 20,000 students registered with GLSEN, according to Schwartz, but hundreds of thousands participated.

GLSEN conducted a survey of 7,000 LGBT youth. Their research shows that bullying in middle and high schools has reached epidemic proportions. Four out of five LGBT students report being harassed because of their sexual orientation and two-thirds because of their gender identity.

The study also found that three out of five LGBT youth feel unsafe at school and a third have missed school over the last month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable.

—  John Wright

AFA: Keep children home from school on Day of Silence

April 16 is the National Day of Silence, a nationwide observance organized by the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network in which students in classrooms across the country will help bring attention to the problems of anti-LGBT bullying, name-calling and harassment in their schools by taking a one-day vow of silence.

Today, the American Family Association sent out an e-mail urging its members and supporters to fight back against the Day of Silence by keeping their children home from school that day.

The e-mail, signed by newly-crowned AFA president Tim Wildmon, says:

“Parents must actively oppose this hijacking of the classroom for political purposes. Please join the national effort to restore to public education a proper understanding of the role of government-subsidized schools. You can help de-politicize the learning environment by calling your child out of school if your child’s school allows students to remain silent during instructional time on the Day of Silence.

“Parents should no longer passively countenance the political usurpation of public school classrooms through student silence.

“If students will be permitted to remain silent, parents can express their opposition most effectively by calling their children out of school on the Day of Silence and sending letters of explanation to their administrators, their children’s teachers, and all school board members. One reason this is effective is that most school districts lose money for each student absence.

“School administrators err when they allow the classroom to be disrupted and politicized by granting students permission to remain silent throughout an entire day.”

Okay, first of all, as the parent of a son who is constantly getting in trouble for talking when he shouldn’t be, the idea that students are disrupting classes by being quiet made me laugh out loud. Most teachers I know (including my now-retired father and my sister), would love to have a whole day of quiet students for a change! I figure that allowing a student to write an answer down — on paper or the blackboard — instead of speaking to answer a question would be a small price most teachers would willingly pay.

Anyway, after I laughed at that part, I got angry at this part: the idea that these right-wing jerks have the gall to accuse LGBT students and their supporters of “politicizing the classroom” when it is in fact the right-wingers who are most often politicizing the classroom by trying to force their religious beliefs into the public school curricula. Especially here in Texas where the right-wingers have managed to get elected to the state Board of Education and are now raping our textbooks to replace historical and scientific fact and sound scientific theory with their own personal religious beliefs and , often, bigotry.

Wildmon tells his followers to go here to learn about how to participate in the “Day of Silence Walkout,” and urging them to contact their children’s schools and tell them that if the school is participating in National Day of Silence, they will be keeping their children home that day.

So I am asking all of you to go to National Day of Silence Web site to find out all the info you can, and to let the schools in your area know that you support their participation in this observance.

—  admin