Day of Silence | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Day of Silence

Posted By on Thu, Apr 24, 2008 at 2:27 PM

Breaking the Silence rally is set at 5 p.m. Friday at the state Capitol as part of a national Day of Silence in support of gay and lesbian students. They must often suffer in silence harassment in schools. Read on for details.

NEWS RELEASE

Breaking the Silence Rally
Friday, April 25, 2008 - 5:00pm
Front Steps - Capitol Bldg. Little Rock
 
This event is a celebration by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) students and their allies at the close of the Day of Silence events that will take place in schools in Arkansas and across the nation on April 25.
 
The Day of Silence (www.dayofsilence.org), a project of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), is a student-led day of action when concerned students, from middle school to college, take some form of a vow of silence to bring attention to the name-calling, bullying and harassment -- in effect, the silencing -- experienced by LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) students and their allies.
 
Hundreds of thousands of students across the nation will come together on April 25 to encourage schools and classmates to address the problem of anti-Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) behavior.
 
This year’s Day of Silence will be held in memory of Lawrence King an 8th grader in California who was gunned down and killed in school by a classmate because of his sexual orientation and gender expression. The goal of the Day of Silence is to inspire change so that such a tragedy and others like it never happen again.
 
Arkansas has seen its own share of anti-LGBTQ behavior. In Fayetteville, 1996 William Wagner was viciously beaten for being gay by other students.
 
In 2003 a Jacksonville youth, Thomas McLaughlin was "outed" to his parents by his principal, forced to read excerpts from the Bible and punished for talking about his sexual orientation and punished again for speaking about the punishment.
 
Students' Experiences
In its 2005 National School Climate Survey, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) found:
  • 75% of students heard derogatory remarks such as "faggot" or "dyke" frequently or often at school, and nearly nine out of ten (89%) reported hearing "that's so gay" or "you're so gay" -- meaning "stupid" or "worthless" -- frequently or often.
  • Over a third (37.8%) of students experienced physical harassment at school based on sexual orientation and more than a quarter (26%) based on their gender expression.
  • Nearly one-fifth (17.6%) of students had been physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation and over a tenth (11.8%) because of their gender expression.
  • LGBTQ students were five times more likely to report having skipped school in the last month because of safety concerns than the general population of students.
  • LGBTQ students who experience more frequent physical harassment were more likely to report they did not plan to go to college. Overall, LGBTQ students were twice as likely as the general population of students to report they were not planning to pursue any post-secondary education.
  • The average GPA for LGBTQ students who were frequently physically harassed was half a grade lower than that of LGBTQ students experiencing less harassment.
Despite Arkansas' anti-bullying law, across the state LGBTQ students and those perceived as being LGBTQ  continue to face harassment both physical and verbal in their schools by peers and at times school administrators and teachers. Some school districts include LGBTQ students in their anti-bullying policies, however most do not. 
 
This treatment creates an atmosphere of fear and greatly impacts the student's access to a quality education. Many LGBTQ youth drop out of school to end the harassment; while others may attempt suicide, or turn to drugs and alcohol in an attempt to stop the pain.
 
Some recent examples of the mistreatment of LGBTQ students include:
  • a middle school student being bullied by classmates because his parents are lesbians
  • a youth targeted as being gay forced to the floor of the bus and having  a sock stuffed in his mouth
  • a youth being chased through town while riding his bicycle by other youth on four wheelers screaming faggot at him
  • a teacher telling a class that included a lesbian student that a character in the Canterbury Tales was a "faggot"
  • a lesbian couple told by their principle that they could not bring their same sex dates to the prom and that if they persisted in challenging the prom would be canceled
  • in Fayetteville Billy Wolfe was accused of being gay; he was harassed and beaten severely

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