photo of a feet wearing rainbow shoes and socks
A student wears rainbow shoes at the annual Pride parade in June.

The letter below, produced by an advisor at GLSEN, a national organization, was recently shared by a student from Kulshan Middle School to raise awareness of and encourage participation in the Day of Silence on April 23. The Day of Silence is a silent and peaceful protest to highlight bullying, harassment, and name calling directed towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ+) individuals and their community. We respect students’ right to advocate for their rights and the rights of others. As we all know, students feeling passion and advocacy about an issue can be a powerful learning experience.

We encourage all staff to support students participating in the Day of Silence.  Learn more about this day of action, connect with your middle or high school’s QSA advisers and refer to the DOS 2021 Educator Guide.

I am writing to you today in the hopes of informing and best preparing you for the upcoming Day of Silence on April 23rd. For those who have not heard of this day before, Day of Silence is one of the largest student-led protests in the United States. Its purpose is to silently and peacefully protest the bullying, harassment, and name calling directed towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ+) individuals and their community. As many students who are targeted for this bullying often do not identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, the Day of Silence represents a peaceful protest of a problem affecting all students, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity.

On April 23rd, as part of the Day of Silence tradition, some of your students will be taking a vow of silence to represent the silencing faced by the queer and transgender individuals and their allies every day. Though at first glance this might seem to make teaching and student learning an impossibility, there are numerous ways in which Day of Silence participants can meet their academic responsibilities without speaking, some of which being:

  • Focusing one’s efforts exclusively on completing written classwork.
  • Asking questions of the teacher, or participating in classroom discussions, by using written or typed notes.
  • Recording any presentations before Day of Silence and playing them on the day of.

Additionally, Day of Silence should not be considered an opportunity in which only students may participate. The power that teachers exert in a classroom setting serves as a great influence upon their students and how they treat members of the LGBTQ+ community. One of the ways educators may is by hosting a “silent lesson” in which they do not speak during their class. This can be achieved by:

  • Answering questions through the use of a notepad or typing answers on a Microsoft Word document
  • Presenting your lesson via a PowerPoint or a pre-recorded video
  • Supplementing your teaching with additional online videos

If you yourself are unable to participate, there are numerous ways in which you can (and should) support students who intend to remain silent. Some of these ways are listed below:

  • If your school has in-person classes, print out and maintain accessible Day of Silence “speaking cards” in the hopes that every student that participates may have a way to easily explain their participation to others.
  • IMPORTANT: Keep an eye out for silent students being taunted by other students and attempt to intervene when (not if, when) it occurs. This is extremely common on Day of Silence – No matter how accepting your classroom may be, this always happens to someone.
  • Print out and put up some posters raising awareness for Day of Silence and its underlying reason for being.
  • Remind students that they may begin their vow of silence at any time during the day and, if they slip up, they may resume their silence at any time.
  • Connect interested students with Zoom backgrounds and profile pictures which clearly indicate their participation.

In closing, due to the sharp rise in anti-LGBTQ+ laws and ordinances in state legislatures these last months, it is now more important now than ever that we, as a school attended by numerous LGBTQ-identifying students, make it our duty to form a united front against all forms of hate and discrimination. Our students are counting on you to ensure that their right to peacefully protest injustice is understood and respected by their student peers and adult role models.

Thank you.

Comments (3)

  • I would like to comment on the ACLU link in the last paragraph, “anti-LGBTQ+ laws and ordinances in state legislatures.” The ACLU has become a far-left activist organization, choosing sides based on ideology rather than facts. They intentionally use misleading and divisive language, as is evident in the link. To me, and many, many others they have lost all credibility.
    A great alternative to the ACLU is FAIR. The Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism (FAIR) is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to advancing civil rights and liberties for all Americans. https://www.fairforall.org/

    • Thanks for sharing your perspective. We shared GLSEN’s letter, which includes a link to the ACLU, based on their support of civil liberties of all people, inclusive of culture, backgrounds, and beliefs.

      As outlined in The Bellingham Promise, we’ve made a collective commitment to our children and we believe that all children should be loved.

      We support our students who choose to participate in the Day of Silence.

  • The ACLU *used* to be an organization who supported the civil liberties of all people. Now they’ve become political, not unlike Bellingham schools.

    To any parents reading this, if you see what’s happening in our schools, the way in which they’ve placed social justice activism above honest education, please get in touch with the aforementioned FAIR, or Parents Defending Education, https://defendinged.org/