Thursday, April 19 was a quiet day on the campus of Malvern Prep, but the hush spoke volumes.
The Diversity Club sponsored a Day of Silence for the Upper School, in line with the national movement to raise awareness of bullying based on actual or perceived sexual orientation. Due to calendar conflicts, the event was a day earlier than the National Day of Silence
, a day of action in which students across the country vow to take a form of silence to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools.
"It is a day when we think about the words we use and their impact on others," said Nicole Wilkinson, Malvern's Director of Diversity. "It is a day when we recommit our community to treating everyone with respect and dignity."
Associating negative meanings with words attached to people's identity (gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, learning style, physical or mental situation) is a dangerous first step toward hate speech, bullying, and even hate crimes, Wilkinson explained. "Making people aware that their language is hurtful is a first step in combating bullying and fear in school and in our society," she said.
During an early morning assembly, members of the Diversity Club quoted statistics about anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools and on social media, and urged students to "Think Before You Speak." Diversity Club member Kyle Julicher '13 ended the assembly by sharing a powerful personal story about bullying he endured, based on perceptions about his identity, as far back as fifth and sixth grades. You can read Kyle's entire story here
Founded in 1996, the Day of Silence has become the largest single student-led action towards creating safer schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. From the first-ever Day of Silence at the University of Virginia in 1996, to the organizing efforts in over 8,000 middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities across the country in 2008, this national effort of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN
) has a textured history that reflects its diversity in both numbers and reach.
To participate, students were asked to go about their day without speaking, in order to make themselves and others aware of the silence that many people have to suffer because they are afraid to be who they are or because they feel silent or invisible in the community in which they live or go to school. It also represents the silence in which many people suffer when they are bullied and are afraid to tell someone what has happened.
See below for some videos about the National Day of Silence and from the resource ThinkB4YouSpeak