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

WATCH: ‘One on One,’ a gay short film written and produced at the University of Texas at Dallas

Although this is the first I’ve heard of it, One on One was originally posted to YouTube (where it has more than 7,000 views) in May 2010 and has reportedly been making the rounds on Facebook ever since. One on One was written and directed by UTD student Luis Fernando Midence, and according to YouTube, it’s been screened at numerous LGBT film festivals. “A story about compromise, One On One follows Alex and Trevor as they work out their relationship on and off the basketball court, after one of them asks the other one to join a waltz class together.”

—  John Wright

Rep. Johnson to host small business summit

State Rep. Eric Johnson

State Rep. Eric Johnson is hosting a small business summit at the University of Texas at Dallas, Callier Center at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

“It’s a summit for small businesses in District 100,” said Andrew Smith, an intern in Johnson’s local office. The district includes parts of Oak Lawn.

He said groups such as the Southern Dallas Development Corp. and Plan Fund would attend.

“They will discuss funds available to small business and how to access those funds,” Smith said.

Johnson will be there to answer questions after the groups make their presentations.

The event takes place in the Glorig Auditorium, 1966 Inwood Road, across the street from St. Paul Hospital.

—  David Taffet