[caption id="attachment_9006" align="alignnone" width="723" caption="This is what I show teachers for why I am not speaking"][/caption]
In honor of this day I am going to post the front page article I wrote my junior year as news editor of The Tide.
From The Tide online:
Speak Out for Silence: May 11, 2007
By: Nikky Raney
On April 18, 2007, Dover High School, along with schools across the nation,
participated in the tenth annual National Day of Silence, a community action initiative aimed at ending discrimination against homosexuals.
Meanwhile, a nationwide pro-family and anti-homosexual coalition, www.NotOurKids.com, warned parents in a nationally distributed press release not to allow their children to attend school on what it called “Gay Day.” It's an effort, the group says, to protect "America's youth and [educate] parents about the dangers of homosexual activism and indoctrination in America's public schools.''
The National Day of Silence (NDS) was founded by students at the Virginia University and has been a tradition every third Wednesday in April for a decade. NDS is a nationwide protest against discrimination of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. According to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) in the year 2006, over 4,000 junior high schools, high schools, and colleges participated in the event.
“The teachers respect students’ choice to participate,” Mr. Strickland, DHS Art
Teacher, explains. “As teachers, we cannot participate, but everyone participates in their own way. Our school has a lot more freedom than others.”
Students who wish to participate are given pass cards to show their teachers, which read: "Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence, a national youth movement protesting the silence faced by lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender people and their allies in schools. My deliberate silence
echoes that silence, which is caused by harassment, prejudice, and discrimination. I
believe that ending the silence is the first step toward fighting these injustices.
Think about the voices you are not hearing today. What are you going to do to end the
Other schools, such as Saint Thomas Aquinas (STA), Berwick Academy and other private schools, also allow their students to participate in the nationwide event.
"The day was very well supported by those who participated in it. The Day of Silence accomplished what it was set out to accomplish,” according to Gail LeClair, Saint Thomas Guidance Counselor. “Silence gets a lot of attention," she continued. "We have never had so many students feel so comfortable and open." However, not all local parochial schools support the program.
“Private schools only have to follow the academic requirements,” says Edward Murdough, Administration for the Bureau of School Approval and Facility Management in NH, describing the differences between public schools and private schools and parochial schools like Seacoast Christian Academy (SCA) and Portsmouth Christian Academy (PCA), who will not allow students to participate.
When asked about Day of Silence involvement at SCA, Seacoast Christian board member
Fenton Groen simply said, “I don’t think anyone would choose to participate in that.”
SCA has not had to punish any students for their participation, because as of this printing, the SCA student body has not attempted participation.
Portsmouth Christian Academy, which also discourages student involvement in The Day of Silence, is the largest Christian school in New England. A PCA school board member, who wished to remain anonymous, gave reasons to why they punish students for participating saying, “The [parochial] school is for kids to learn without distractions and glorification of sins. The National Day of Prayer is May 3, 2007 and we encourage our kids to participate in that. Prayer is something that does not harm anyone,” the source continued, “and unlike the ‘gay silence day’ it does not advocate any sins. There are people trying to turn discrimination of sexual orientation into a hate crime, and that is the fault of public schools allowing and accepting sins.”
Mitchell Kissack, a freshman at Dover High School and former PCA student said of his National Day of Silence experience in 2006 at PCA: “It’s really personal for me. Last year I tried to participate, but my teachers would not let me.” Kissack, a staunch supporter of the NDS program, was stuck. “They said I would have to talk or I would be in trouble”
But The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network is afraid that the wrong idea may be getting out to the media. Eliza Byard, deputy executive director of GLSEN, writes on the organization’s website that it is unfortunate that parents would decide to go along with the NotOurKids campaign. “In terms of its fundamental core message, the Day of Silence is about stopping name-calling, bullying and harassment based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity expression. It's about changing behavior, not necessarily changing beliefs,'' explains Byard.
In response to the growing success of the National Day of Silence event, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a right-wing Christian religious lobbying group, has termed the following day, “The Day of Truth.” According the ADF, “The Day of Truth was established to counter what the promotion of the homosexual agenda and express an opposing viewpoint from a Christian perspective.” Supporters believe that schools allowing The National Day of Silence should also allow The Day of Truth activities. ADF argues that students have only heard a “one-sided message.”
The group also sees a legal concern saying, “For a school to allow the [Day of Silence] and not the [Day of Truth] would be viewpoint discrimination, which is impermissible under any circumstances. The courts have unanimously struck down any restrictions based on viewpoint discrimination."
The card that Day of Truth participants passed out this year read, "I am speaking the Truth to break the silence. I believe in equal treatment for all, and not special rights for a
few. I believe in loving my neighbor, but part of that love means not condoning
detrimental personal and social behavior. I believe that by boldly proclaiming the
Truth, hurts will be halted, hearts will be healed, and lives will be saved.”
The true controversy of these two days is that they are both trying to achieve the same goal—the right to speak out, free of censorship, and support a position about the discrimination against homosexuals—but when does censorship on the part of school administrations cancel out discrimination on the part of groups? Next April, we may just find out.