What’s the Day of Silence Really All About?

Every year, usually in mid-April, thousands of American students participate in a “Day of Silence.”

They take a vow of silence throughout the school day to  “encourage schools and classmates to address the problem of anti-LGBTQ behavior.”

Participants wear special T-shirts and hand out cards explaining their concerns.

For a “Take Action,” the web page states that the event “is culminating in a massive call to action to make sure your governor is pushing for the most comprehensive and inclusive LGBTQ policies in schools.”

Many schools also host follow-up “Breaking the Silence” events, which can include workshops, speakers, and entertainment. Here‘s what you need to know about the event, and how to respond to it.

What’s it really about?

First of all, it‘s important to understand that the Day of Silence is organized by the nation’s largest activist group dedicated to promoting homosexuality to public school children as young as kindergarten level— the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).

The founder of GLSEN, Kevin Jennings, wrote the foreword to a book while he was leading GLSEN called Queering Elementary Education. Chapters titles include, “Locating a Place for Gay and Lesbian Themes in Elementary …” and “‘It’s Okay to be Gay’: Interrupting Straight Thinking in the English Classroom.”

GLSEN has carried on that tradition and, in short, would like for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender themes to be “fully integrated into curricula across a variety of subject areas and grade levels,” according to guides it has published for educators and students.

To help further its goals, GLSEN also sponsors homosexual-advocacy student clubs, commonly known as Gay Straight Alliances, in thousands of schools across the country.

One of the main methods GLSEN uses to get its messages into schools is the Day of Silence, which began in 1996 with about 150 participants at one university. At first, the event was geared toward college students. But more than a decade later, GLSEN has greatly expanded its reach—in recent years reporting that students from more than 8,000 public schools and colleges participate in Day of Silence events. GSA student clubs sponsored by GLSEN often organize the event in their schools.

In addition to wearing T-shirts and buttons, students are encouraged to pass out cards with the following message:  Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence (DOS), a national youth movement bringing attention to the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by anti-LGBT bullying, name-calling and harassment. I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward building awareness and making a commitment to address these injustices. Think about the voices you ARE NOT hearing today.

One aspect of this event that has been controversial is that students are encouraged not to speak, which can directly compete with public schools’ limited instruction schedule— which, as we all know, is already crunched for time just to cover the academic basics.

During promotion of the event, teachers are encouraged to share books and materials that introduce kids to transgenderism and same-sex marriage. Day of Silence has traditionally been promoted as a student-driven event, but the accompanying “Educator Guide,” makes it clear that adult activism in schools is not only allowed, but encouraged.

For instance, the guide recommends that educators, “Hold an all-school assembly and invite families to be silent at 3:00 pm ET for 5 min. Then break the silence with a social justice/LGBTQ-inclusive Read Aloud,” as well as to continue incorporating “LGBTQ history, themes, and events into lesson plans you are already teaching” after the event.

How does this event influence students?

The reality is, that events like the Day of Silence and the many other events and messages from homosexual advocacy groups promoted in schools–and the culture at large–do appear to have a role in shaping students’ minds.

  • For the last few years, research has shown a radical shift  in perspective among the younger generation on issues such as same-sex marriage.
  • In July 2015, Gallup was reporting that “American adults younger than 30 remain the most supportive of gay marriage among age groups,” reaching as high as 76 percent support in that age group.
  • Likewise, results released by Pew Research Center in 2015, revealed that “Millennials – adults born since 1980 who are currently ages 18-34 – continue to be far more supportive of same-sex marriage than older age cohorts.” Polls also show that a large majority of younger people favor same-sex adoption.
  • In 2007, USA Today reported that  “Gay teenagers are ‘coming out’ earlier than ever …  The change is happening in the wake of opinion polls that show growing acceptance of gays ….”
  • In 2009, The New York Times magazine published a piece on the trend of kids “Coming Out in Middle School.”

One concern with events and messages celebrating homosexuality at younger and younger ages is that they do not tell students the whole story.

In June 2011, the Centers for Disease Control issued a press release announcing that a “CDC Report Finds Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Students at Greater Risk for Unhealthy, Unsafe Behaviors.”

One of the largest studies ever done on the topic—involving seven states and six large school districts—it revealed that students who identify as gay, lesbian and bisexual are significantly more likely than heterosexual students to engage in high-risk behaviors like drug and alcohol use, actions that lead to violence, suicidal behavior and sexual experimentation that can expose them to diseases, just to name a few. Read more about that here.

The study demonstrates a well-documented fact that TrueTolerance.org has been pointing to all along: There’s no question that sexual experimentation among school children puts them at much greater danger both physically and emotionally.

The bottom line is that children are not physically or emotionally equipped to handle adult sexuality.

Here are some other statistics to consider:

  • Any sexual activity among unmarried young people is risky, including homosexual behavior. A 2011 CDC backgrounder report stated that “Students who had sexual contact with both sexes had higher prevalence rates than those who only had sexual contact with the opposite sex for health risks in six of the 10 health risk categories (behaviors that contribute to violence, behaviors related to attempted suicide, tobacco use, alcohol use, other drug use, and weight management.)”
  • In 2014, the CDC reported that, “Young people aged 13-24 are especially affected by HIV. In 2014, they comprised 16% of the US population but accounted for 22% of all new HIV diagnoses. All young people are not equally at risk, however. Young gay and bisexual men accounted for 92% of all new HIV diagnoses in people aged 13-24 in 2014, and young, African American gay and bisexual men are even more severely affected.”
  • And despite nearly a quarter century of “safe sex” education efforts undertaken in large measure by the homosexual activist community and its allies in the medical professions, new HIV infections are occurring at an estimated rate of 50,000 per year.
  • For both men and women, it is well-documented that the earlier the age of sexual activity, the greater the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and experiencing emotional harm, both of which can have lifelong consequences.

So if educators really want to create safe schools and protect kids, they won’t open their doors to one-sided messages from sexual advocacy groups that don’t give kids the whole story—or all of the medical and health information.

What’s a good way to respond?

When people find out that a Day of Silence is being celebrated in their school, they may wonder how to respond in a way that expresses truth and compassion. The good news is that there is an alternative for students that meets this objective: The Day of Dialogue®.

Rather than emphasize silence, the Day of Dialogue encourages “honest conversations” and “open dialogue” where students can freely exchange different viewpoints, including faith-based ones. The Day of Dialogue usually occurs the school day before or the next school day after the Day of Silence and is sponsored by Focus on the Family. An estimated 45,000 students across the nation voluntarily participated in the last event.

The theme for Day of Dialogue is “Get the Conversation Started.” Participating students can wear T-shirt designs available on the Web site and pass out Conversation Cards (not during class time) with the following message: What do you think? What if there really is a God who cares about you?... I believe there is a God who knows our names and who cares about the details of our lives—including our relationships, our sexuality and our souls. That’s why Jesus Christ came to this earth to give His life for people like you and me—because He loves every person. As someone who follows Jesus, I’ll stand up for students who are being teased, bullied or harmed. I also believe God cares about us so much that He designed the best, loving plan for our relationships and sexuality  Let’s talk about it!

The Day of Dialogue event challenges students to express the true model presented by Jesus Christ in the Bible—who didn’t back away from speaking truth, but neither held back in pouring out His incredible, compassionate love for hurting and vulnerable people. His example calls us to stand up for those being harmed or bullied while offering the light of what God’s Word says.

How can students have the most impact?

First of all, it‘s important for them to be respectful to students, teachers and principals, no matter how rude the responses of others may be to their message. It’s also important to follow procedure. Students should pass out Day of Dialogue cards only during breaks, lunch hours or before and after school–not during class time.

It‘s a good idea to check into your school’s policy on literature distribution beforehand—students may need to get permission to pass out the Day of Dialogue cards and put up posters. Don‘t purposefully break the rules.

At the same time, it‘s important to be aware of students’ legal rights.

Generally speaking, students in a public school have:

  • First Amendment rights to engage in voluntary, free speech conversations in a way that does not interfere with or substantially disrupt classroom time and academic instruction. That means they can voluntarily express their personal and religious beliefs to classmates through verbal or written expressions, as long as they follow school policy and do not engage in these activities during classroom or instruction time.
  • Student clubs (including Christian ones) and individuals also have equal access rights to participate in the same free speech expressions and activities already allowed by the school for other clubs and individuals. For instance, if their school allows a club or students to put up posters or distribute cards containing messages about a current topic, they cannot discriminate against other students or clubs who also want to use those same free speech venues to weigh in on the topic as well.

So if schools are opening their doors to the Day of Silence, then students with deeply held religious convictions or faith-based points of view can make the case that their views should be equally respected—and also be given a place at the table. The bottom line is that freedom of speech should apply to everyone, not just selected groups.

For more information, see the Know Your Rights section of Day of Dialogue.

How do students handle criticism?

Some people may falsely accuse Day of Dialogue participants of wanting to discriminate. Students who face those comments can calmly respond by explaining that they do not desire to hurt anyone and are opposed to any form of harassment against anyone—no matter who they are. At the same time, students of faith have the right to politely request that they in turn be given equal time and respect for their viewpoints, without facing harassment or censorship.

For more information, see Responding to Challenges on the Day of Dialogue Web site.

The good news is that students across the country are standing up for those rights—and they are succeeding. For instance, Benjamin Arthurs, a student at Midway High School in North Carolina, was suspended from school for distributing materials outside of class time during a Day of Dialogue event (formerly known as Day of Truth), even though students were permitted to celebrate the Day of Silence.

Arthurs sought help from the Alliance Defending Freedom and won a settlement that made the school revise its unconstitutional policies prohibiting religious speech, events and T-shirts. The suspension was expunged from his record.

After her school officially endorsed Day of Silence and allowed homosexual advocacy clubs to invite speakers, high school student Rosemary Shakro and her Christian club tried to publicize a speaker representing their point of view who would talk after school.

But Rosemary was told her club’s message was “too controversial.” She stood firm, however, and with the help of the Alliance Defending Freedom,  won the right to invite the speaker to present an alternative point of view.

The Alliance Defending Freedom continues to represent Day of Dialogue students pro bono when their constitutional rights are violated.

We hope the Day of Dialogue will equip more students like Benjamin and Rosemary to share redemptive truth and engage in constitutionally protected free speech. If you are a student who wants to participate, be sure to visit the Day of Dialogue to register.