Guest Author - Barbara Sharpe
Writing about National Day of Silence started me thinking about the people who participate. I wondered what prompted them to be part of it and how teachers and others responded. I spoke with Katrina Walker, a high school student in Virginia, about her experiences.
Katrina decided to participate in National Day of Silence (NDOS) this year because she has a number of LGBT friends and she doesn’t like how they are sometimes treated. One way to show her support was to participate in NDOS. Katrina is also part of the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) at her school, but NDOS is a more visible, if quiet, way to lend her support to LGBT issues.
When asked how her teachers responded, Katrina was happy to report that her teachers were supportive. That is in line with published research which tells us that a majority of teachers support including LGBT students in anti-bullying policies and more than 70% of them strongly endorse that view.
On a practical note, when students who were participating in NDOS were called on in class, all they had to do was shake their head and the teachers would move on to another student. Katrina noted that her teachers were quite supportive. To be sure teachers understood what NDOS was about and what would be happening, members of the GSA spoke to teachers the day before.
In other schools, teachers would penalize students for not participating in class that day. In fact, in some schools, students are actively discouraged from holding an event at all. One school adopted a policy that students could not use any school resources to promote NDOS and no faculty member was allowed to be involved.
Katrina’s experience was mostly positive, but there were some negatives. Some of her friends just didn’t understand. One of her friends kept talking to her, so Katrina wrote her a note explaining why she wasn’t talking. That friend understood but other classmates did not. NDOS participants were called names (like “homo” or “stupid”), among other rude things.
People made fun of several of her friends, but one friend in particular. This friend is exactly why NDOS is important. This young man is teased regularly because he is very out. It hurts him, but he tells Katrina that he can’t let that get him down. He is who he is. There were students who did everything they could to get the NDOS participants to break the silence.
Katrina would like you to know one thing. It’s okay to be silent on NDOS. People who tease you are ignorant or afraid. It is okay to be different.