Day of Silence

Close-up+of+a+young+woman+with+adhesive+tape+over+her+mouth

Getty Images

Close-up of a young woman with adhesive tape over her mouth

Gary Sowder, Contributor

        In 1996, a student at the University of Virginia devised the idea to hold a school wide protest in response to an assignment based on non-violence. Maria Pulzetti – the student – wanted to organize an event that would impact her school and be visible to students that were not participating. She eventually decided on a day dedicated to silence where participants refused to speak. The silence represented the fact that many LGBT students throughout the United States don’t have the ability to be open about their sexualities and gender expression because they run the risk of facing harassment. After convincing her friends and classmates to participate, Maria Pulzetti inspired over 150 students to be silent for the entirety of one Friday. The following year, student organizers took the event to a national scale, and over 100 colleges, high schools, and middle schools participated in order to protest bullying and abuse.

        Now, twenty years later, over 10,000 students participate yearly. Although the number of supporters is growing quickly, the bullying that the Day of Silence protests still occurs: nine in ten LGBT students nationwide have reported cases of verbal, physical, or sexual harassment on school grounds. Over 30% of harassed students refuse to go to school or attend classes because they feel unsafe. The Day of Silence is about LGBT students and their allies peacefully protesting the silence that so many kids are forced into, with the hope of one day ending it.

        John Jay has been a proud supporter of the Day of Silence for over five years, with many members of the student body participating in the daylong silent protest. This year, the Day of Silence takes place on April 15th, and many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students will be doing their part to stand up to oppression.