April 15, 2011
Today is GLSEN’s National Day of Silence where students nationwide take a vow of silence to bring attention to bullying and harassment of gay, lesbian, and transgender teens in their schools.
President Obama’s “Safe Schools Czar,” Kevin Jennings, is the founder and executive director of GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.
Jennings’ appointment in 2009 sparked a hail storm of controversy. Several conservative organizations and 53 lawmakers have since called for the firing of Jennings claiming that he has “for more than twenty years, almost exclusively focused on promoting the homosexual agenda.”
Jennings wrote the forward to the book Queering of Elementary Education, which was endorsed by William Ayers. The book includes chapters like “Why Discuss Sexuality in Elementary School?” and “Locating a Place for Gay and Lesbian Themes in Elementary Reading, Writing and Talking”.
The National Day of Silence website coaches youth on their rights concerning free speech including their right “to not speak” and invites kids to report anyone who doesn’t respect their rights. GLSEN has partnered with Lambda Legal, who will offer legal help to anyone whose rights are violated on this day of silence.
Although students are instructed by GLSEN and Lambda that their constitutional right to remain silent does not extend to instruction time in the classroom, the day of silence has caused controversy in recent years. Several students attempting to exercise their rights to free speech by expressing opposition to homosexuality and the National Day of Silence have had their rights trampled by teachers and school administrators across the country.
For example, one school administrator in Chicago ordered a student, Heidi Zamecnik, to remove a t-shirt she was wearing that read, “MY DAY OF SILENCE, STRAIGHT ALLIANCE” on the front and “BE HAPPY, NOT GAY” on the back. Zamecnik was represented in a lawsuit by the Alliance Defense Fund who stated they had filed at least eight similar lawsuits nationwide. Gary McCaleb of the Alliance Defense Fund said they are working “to enable Christian students to express a contrasting viewpoint on homosexuality.”
In San Diego, California, a high school student was suspended for wearing an anti-homosexuality t-shirt and said he was told to “leave his faith in the car.”
Several Christian parents have opted to keep their children home from school to express their opposition to this day and what it represents. The Illinois Family Institute which recently organized a Day of Silence Walkout believes that the “implicit purpose of the DOS is to undermine the belief that homosexuality and cross-dressing is immoral.”