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Day of Silence
© Copyright, 1996-2011, GLSEN
(Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network)

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Day of Silence®?
The Day of Silence is a student-led national event that brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools. Students from middle school to college take some form of a vow of silence in an effort to encourage schools and classmates to address the problem of anti-LGBT behavior. The event is designed to illustrate the silencing effect of this bullying and harassment on LGBT students and those perceived to be LGBT.

What is GLSEN®?
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established nationally in 1995, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. For more information on GLSENís educational resources, public policy agenda, student organizing programs, research, public education or development initiatives, visit

Who started the Day of Silence?
In 1996, students at the University of Virginia organized the first Day of Silence in response to a class assignment on non-violent protests. Over 150 students participated in this inaugural DOS. In 1997, organizers took their effort nationally and nearly 100 colleges and universities participated. In 2001, GLSEN became the official organizational sponsor for the event.

Has the Day of Silence been successful?
In 2008, hundreds of thousands of students from more than 8,000 K-12 schools, colleges and universities organized Day of Silence events. These numbers make the Day of Silence one of the largest student-led actions in the United States. The event has drawn significant attention to LGBT issues in schools over the years. For example, GLSEN spokespersons have appeared on national media outlets and there has always been extensive local media coverage from coast to coast, with numerous interviews with students.

Why do we need a Day of Silence?
Two of the top three reasons students said their peers were most often bullied at school were actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender expression, according to From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, a 2005 report by GLSEN and Harris Interactive.

GLSENís 2007 National School Climate Survey found that nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students report verbal, sexual or physical harassment at school and more than 30% report missing at least a day of school in the past month out of fear for their personal safety. The Day of Silence helps bring us closer to making anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and name-calling unacceptable in Americaís schools. For more information see: ‘How To Get What You Want With An Ask’ [PDF]

I'm in middle school. Can I organize a Day of Silence at my school?
The Day of Silence can logistically be organized in any school, public or private, middle school, high school or college. However, in middle and high schools, getting support from the school administration is critical. Students should not assume that administrators would not support their efforts--even if they have not supported LGBT issues in the past--because it's always important to ask and provide information to win support. Read more about getting administrative support in the Day of Silence Organizing Manual [PDF].

Do I have a right to participate in the Day of Silence?
You DO have a right to participate in Day of Silence and other expressions of your opinion at a public school during non-instructional time: the breaks between classes, before and after the school day, lunchtime, and any other free times during your day. You do NOT have a right to remain silent during class time if a teacher asks you to speak. We recommend that you talk to your teachers ahead of time, tell them what you plan to do, and ask them if it would be okay for you to communicate on that day in writing. (ACLU)

How do the Day of Silence activities affect the school day?
GLSEN advises students interested in participating to discuss their intentions with their administration and teachers long before the event. The day is most successful when schools and students work together to show their commitment to ensuring safe schools for all students. Many schools allow studentsí participation throughout the day. Some schools ask students to speak as they normally would during class and remain silent during breaks and at lunch. There is no single way to participate, and students are encouraged to take part in the way that is the most positive and uplifting for their school. Students may also participate in “Breaking the Silence” rallies, events at which students come together at the day’s end to express themselves and share their experiences with members of their local communities.

What other things can I do to create an effective Day of Silence?
An important part of the Day of Silence is creating educational opportunities before and/or after the event. Many people will be affected by this event, and will want to know more about the silence LGBT people and their allies face. Good follow-up events include: workshops, speakers, entertainment, or any other venue for evaluation, education, and discussion.

I want to help organize this regionally and nationally. What can I do?
Great! There are several ways you can become more involved. The first step is simply signing-up for the day of silence on Next you can contact a local student organizer (on the home page under the yellow tab "get support") and inform them of all you’re doing locally. They can help you do more in your city, state or region, and become more connected.

Why should I register?
GLSEN encourages participants to register and be counted. In order to promote the Day of Silenceís positive impact, we need to know how many people participate. Many critics wish to downplay the number of people who support addressing the problem of anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment. By registering, you are helping us prove that this is an important issue that needs to be addressed.
Register here and be counted!

Can you send my school a packet of materials for the Day of Silence?
Certainly! Simply register online at and we’ll happily add you to our mailing list to receive resources and support.

What happens if my school doesn't support the effort?
GLSEN advises all students to secure school permission for the event. We believe that such support is critical for many reasons. We encourage students in those schools where support is unlikely to build campaigns to try and secure that support or work with their administration on compromises of activities the school will allow. We also encourage students to identify events and ways to participate outside of the school.

If your administration does not support an official Day of Silence event there are alternative activities that you can engage in. Please refer to: “Tips for the Last Minute Organizer or Those Whose Administration Has Said No” [PDF].

Does the work end after the day is over?
The Day of Silence is one element of a larger effort to create safe schools for all students regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. Many communities, in addition to supporting the Day of Silence, host Breaking The Silence events, rallies, legislative lobby days, performances and more – both on the Day of Silence and all year round. We are also asking our national leaders to support policies that create safe schools for all. Many communities are asking their local and state leaders to support and implement similar policies. You can get connected to an ongoing national effort by registering your GSA with GLSEN at

What do you have to say about potential opponents to the Day of Silence?
The issue at hand is the bullying, harassment, name-calling and violence that students see and face in our schools. The Day of Silence is an activity created and led by students to educate their peers and bring an end to this harassment.

We look forward to engaging all organizations and individuals who share The Day of Silence vision of schools free from anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment.

Those who do not support the Day of Silence often protest, but rarely contribute positively to finding ways to end anti-LGBT harassment. Some individuals and groups organize events in response to the Day of Silence. These events grossly mischaracterize or simply misunderstand the basic purpose of the Day of Silence. Bringing attention to these events only adds a false credibility to their misinformation about the Day of Silence, GLSEN and the thousands of American students taking action on April 17th. If you face hostile students or organizations in your school on the Day of Silence remember to remain calm. We encourage you to not get into a debate, make gestures, and certainly not to get into a physical altercation. If you continue to be harassed, we encourage you to contact your GSA advisor or other ally school staff person.

I’d like to make a donation, how can I do it?
Contributions are greatly appreciated. You can support the Day of Silence by making your donation to the project’s organizer, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). For more information on how to make a donation visit GLSEN’s website:

[Updated: 2/8/11]

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