On April 15th, several LGBTQ students and two faculty members, Mr. Giacomini (262) and Ms. Cohen (256), addressed 277 students on the issue of sexual orientation and bullying of LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning, and other marginalized identities) students as part of the National Day of Silence. The assembly was hosted by the student-run LGBTQ+ Organization. The Day of Silence is a student-run event in middle and high schools and universities across the country meant to encourage students to take a vow of silence in order to draw awareness to the issue of bullying and harassment of LGBTQ+ students.
The Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has been tracking the climate of bullying related to sexual and gender orientation in schools for over a decade. In 2013, GLSEN researchers found that out of 8,000 LGBTQ+ students surveyed, 65% said that they regularly heard homophobic slurs, and 69% said that they generally felt unsafe in their schools. While this may not always be the case at Central, many students continue to feel unsafe or silenced by the cultural stigma around LGBTQ+ issues in the United States, and it is for that reason that the LGBTQ+ Organization sponsored this year’s event.
Jana Pugsley (277), the Central LGBTQ+ organization’s president, believes that overall, the Day of Silence was largely successful. “I was deeply encouraged by the support that Central showed towards the Day of Silence,” she said. “Various people who I’ve never talked to before came up to me throughout the day with typed messages on their phones because they couldn’t speak. The impact that the event had on individuals at Central that have been silenced is exactly why we decided to participate in National Day of Silence.”
Even students who were not personally affected by the issue of LGBTQ+ bullying participated in the movement and took a vow of silence to stand in solidarity with their peers and friends. Dozens of students walked the halls silently on Friday wearing a piece of black duct tape to display the reason for their silence
Despite the overall success of the movement, there are some students who don’t feel that it was an effective way to bring awareness to the issue. “I personally don’t agree with the actions of Day of Silence,” said Anna Pugsley (276), Vice President of the LGBTQ+ Organization. “I went through with it to best represent the interests of the students, but simply staying silent and signing a pledge only serves to benefit the participant’s ego. That’s why we held an assembly as well, to create dialogue and disseminate information among students. To create action, more dialogue and education needs to happen.”
Throughout the day, it was clear that there were students who did not take the day’s message seriously, and even teachers who did not respect the students’ vows of silence. Because of this, some students feel that the day was generally misdirected.
“I thought [Day of Silence] was a really awesome opportunity to raise awareness about LGBT issues on a larger scale, but I also saw so many students only being silent when it was advantageous to them, and that was incredibly disappointing to me,” commented Jessica Hobbs Pifer (277). “This was an important day, I just wish there was a better understanding within the community about what it really means.”
Lena Popkin (277)