On April 4th of 2014, West Bloomfield High School took place in a stance against bullying people based on perceived or actual sexual orientation, the annual event, The Day of Silence (DOS). The Day of Silence was first started in 1996 at the University of Virginia. This stance has become “the largest single student-led action towards creating safer schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression,” states GLSEN, (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) who sponsors this day. During The Day of Silence students would not speak, unless spoken to by a teacher or administrative member, and they would carry around speaking cards that stated: “Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence, a national youth movement bringing attention to the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies in schools. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by name-calling, bullying and harassment. I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward fighting these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today. What are you going to do to end the silence?” This is the basis for this stance against bullying.
The Day of Silence at WBHS is sponsored by WBHS’ Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), lead by WBHS teachers, Mr. Mark Smith and Ms. Jillian Firosz. They follow the rules and main focus of the Day of Silence by the GLSEN, for this is a nation wide event. The Day of Silence has happened at WBHS for many years, but officially as a school approved day for 3 years when the GSA was opened at WBHS. The students who participated had the above speaking card, wore purple or the “KEEP CALM AND LOVE WHO YOU WANT” shirts from the GSA club and purple ribbons, which are the symbol for the GSA community. Some participants wore duct tape across their mouths with words like EQUALITY, LOVE IS EQUAL, DAY OF SILENCE, and more or nothing, all to emphasize day, the silence, help them from not speaking and to grab attention to the issue the day stands for. This is the main chance for students to share their beliefs of same sex marriage, gay rights, and anti-bullying in a safe environment for it is forbidden for other peers to bully or harass those participating in The Day of Silence. Firosz explains that, “It makes the students more knowledgeable about the situations that can happen. So we want to make sure that kids understand that it is not okay to bully kids based on anything: sexual orientation, race, gender, any background. So I think it brings students together under a common cause of not causing other people pain based off of their own personalities.” This also relates the Day of Silence to other anti-bullying days and clubs, like Defeat the Label Day and the Be The Change group at WBHS.
This day, specifically, is a chance to make an echo of the silence of all those who were silenced by bullying and by society for being different and forced to be in the shadows and also to pay homage to all those who lost their life because of bullying and depression brought on by their silence; nothing is more shocking then no longer hearing the voices that you are so used to. “It is a way show respect for people who fell like they have been silenced themselves based on the fact that they can’t share their sexual orientations with people or have been bullied so much they are silenced by others. So either that they are silencing themselves based the fact they can not be open or free about who they are or other people have silenced them because of bullying,” adds Firosz. The Day of Silence uses this as a technique to bring light and awareness to their position.
“It’s just kind of showing the bullying that has occurred, what people have gone through and how our society is changing, but also at the same time how the youth of America are stepping up to challenge all those previous hatred and bullying in the past, and for the youth of today to take charge to conquer those labels have been put forth,” Smith exclaims.
The Day of Silence at WBHS is hosted by the GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) of West Bloomfield and this is one of the main activities the club/organization spends their year preparing and planning for. “GSA sold ribbons to promote the day. They also went around to classrooms to talk about the Day of Silence, to encourage students to participate, or to be aware or support the day by wearing purple. And that if they wanted to participate to sign up,” states Smith. He also adds that “we had about 100 people that actually participated in the silence and a great number of the student population and teachers wore the purple ribbons or purple shirts to demonstrate their support of the day. So there was definitely a whole school wide support for the day.”
This is an annual event and occurs every year, always gaining a great outcome of participants and school wide acceptance, bring WBHS closer to being a school centered on individual safety (of expression) and peer understanding.