April 27th is the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) annual Day of Silence. Day of Silence is a student-led protest in which people across the country take vows of silence to call attention to the silencing and erasure of LGBTQ+ people in schools. It is a chance for students to demonstrate against the bullying, harassment, and discrimination LGBTQ+ youth go through every day in order to receive an education. Here’s a few of the reasons why students are quietly coming together.
Threats and Assault
The 2015 GLSEN School Climate Survey sampled over 10,000 youth about their experiences as LGBTQ+ people in a school. More than half of the students surveyed reported feeling unsafe at school. 85% had been verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Almost one third had been victims of physical assault or harassment at school. Over half of students who reported incidents of physical or verbal harassment to school staff said that the school did nothing to help them or told the student they had to learn to ignore it.
Lack of Sex Education
Studies show that lesbian, gay, or bisexual students are about twice as likely to become pregnant or get someone pregnant in comparison to their straight peers. Regardless of this fact, very few students receive LGBTQ+ inclusive sex education. Only 22 states mandate sex education, and only 13 of those states require the education to be medically accurate. Eight states restrict teaching any LGBTQ+ content in schools, and some, like Alabama require that students be taught that homosexuality is a criminal, unacceptable lifestyle.
Lack of Teacher Training
Half of the teachers surveyed by GLSEN for the 2015 School Climate Survey reported that they had never done anything during their careers as educators to support their school’s LGBTQ+ students. One third had never even received training related to sexual orientation or gender identity.
Schools Denying Gay Straight Alliances (GSA)
Since the 1980’s, student-led groups have been coming together to hold meetings for LGBTQ+ youth and straight allies. Today, over 4,000 of these clubs exist in schools across the country. In schools with GSAs, students are 53% less likely to hear homophobic remarks, and 30% less likely to be physically victimized at school. Under the Federal Equal Access Act, students at schools that receive government funding have the right to form a GSA, but many schools try to deny these clubs on the basis of them being inappropriate or an attempt to brainwash students. To date, over 17 lawsuits have been won against school districts that have tried to limit student’s rights by squashing GSAs.
Lack of Transgender Student Protections
In May of 2016, the Obama Departments of Education and Justice offered joint guidance directing schools to support transgender students. In February of 2017, the Trump administration withdrew the guidance and have since walked back use of Title IX protections for LGBTQ+ students.
For more information about how you can be a part of Day of Silence, click here.