Friday was the National Day of Silence, when LGBT students and their allies call attention to the harassment and bullying that LGBT students experience simply because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation. Some students remain completely silent all day while others organize rallies to speak out against the backlash.
The Day of Silence coincided with the release of a study on the experiences of LGBT youth in Pennsylvania schools, and the findings are more than a bit depressing. According to the article on the study in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
- Almost 9 of 10 [LGBT students] have been harassed verbally in the past year.
- More than half said they had been harassed physically.
- More than a quarter said they had been physically assaulted.
- Ninety-eight percent sometimes, often or frequently hear the word “gay” used in a negative way.
- Most of those harassed or assaulted didn’t report it, but only about a third of those who did report it found school staff intervened effectively.
- Because they felt unsafe, 39 percent had skipped class at least once in the preceding month and 44 percent had missed at least one day of school.
The students who take part in the Day of Silence are courageously fighting against overwhelming opposition from their own classmates and even school staff, who are supposed to be helping and protecting them. They are to be commended for working to change the environment in which this bullying and harassment are allowed to continue.