On April 21, rainbow banners and flags hung from the doorways and walls of the auditorium.
Students filed quietly through the double doors, keeping their vow until the very end. Members of the Gay-Straight Alliance stood inside, ready to lead their classmates to the breaking of the silence.
Soon, yells erupted from the seats and students’ voices were heard for the first time all day. Stories of personal struggles were shared and the group of students was united over a cause that was important to them all.
The National Day of Silence has been held every April since 1996. “It’s a pledge of silence for schools to participate in where everyone stays silent,” GSA president Jillian Smith said, “in remembrance of LGBT people who are bullied and the silencing effect that bullying has.”
The movement was started by a group of students at the University of Virginia in 1996. The students organized the event for a class assignment on non-violent protests.
That year, 150 students had signed up and participated. The following year, the project reached out to include nearly 100 colleges and universities, and has been growing ever since.
According to the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)’s 2013 National School Climate Survey, 9 out of 10 LGBT students say that they have experienced verbal, sexual, or physical harassment at school.
This survey also reported that 64% of the students survey did not feel safe at school due to their sexual orientation and 44% felt unsafe because of their gender identity.
Red Lion has held a Day of Silence for several years. It is the main focus of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club, and in the coming years, they hope that the event will bring acceptance for those in the community, rather than judgement.
“It really is something that brings people together,” Jillian Smith said.