After students across the country remain silent during the school day, members of the Prism Youth Community will break the silence Friday with a party celebrating the LGBT community.
The event is part of the Day of Silence, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s annual day of action where students take a vow of silence throughout the day to call attention to name-calling, bullying and harassment that LGBT students encounter.
Students from about 8,000 middle and high schools across the country have registered to participate in the Day of Silence. The event varies based on the school. Some allow students to remain silent in class, while others can only participate during lunch or breaks.
Makice said the students’ silence symbolizes how LGBT people have been silenced by bullying in the past. Most LGBT students have faced harassment or discrimination at their schools, according to a 2015 school climate survey conducted by GLSEN. A Harris Interactive study reported that some of the top reasons students are bullied in school include actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender expression.
Makice said even if schools do celebrate their LGBT students, it is nice for students to have an event away from the classroom for the Day of Silence.
“School is school, so it’s good to have a place to let off steam,” she said.
Prism Youth program director Laura Ingram said the Breaking the Silence event is a way for students to come together at the end of the day and be in a supportive environment.
“The Day of Silence can be hard, and Breaking the Silence is just a chance to be around other people who did it and relax and have fun,” Unitarian Universalist’s Rainbow Rights Task Force chair Amy Makice said.
The Breaking the Silence event will be like a typical teenage party, and it will appeal to a variety of people, Makice said.
Breaking the Silence will take place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday at Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington. The party will include tie dying, games, food and music. The event is free and open to anyone from ages 12 to 20.
“There are some people who are social and are trying all the stuff there, and then there are some who are quiet and have their own group of friends and just play cards or something,” she said.
The Unitarian Universalist Church is a safe space to have a party for LBGT youth, Makice said. She said the church is not only welcoming but it is also celebratory of the LBGT community.
Makice said the Day of Silence is important because it raises awareness of the importance of creating a supportive environment for LGBT students in schools.
She said it is also essential to have a school where Gay Straight Alliances and other organizations for LBGT youth and allies can thrive.
“The school climate is one of the indicators of well being in LGBTQ youth,” she said. “The presence of a strong GSA improves the quality of life measurably for queer youth.”