By Julie Ann Madden
It may be a quiet day at Akron-Westfield Community School for some high school and middle school students this Friday — if they are participating in the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network’s Day of Silence.
According to GLSEN’s website, this is “the 18th annual Day of Silence, which is a student-led day of action to raise awareness about anti-Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) bullying, harassment and discrimination. The student participants and their supporters believe that LGBT students deserve to go to school in a safe and respectful environment.”
“Any student who would like may remain silent that day can,” said A-W Grades 7-12 Principal Derek Briggs, “and we’re not making a big deal out of it. We did this last year, too.”
Last year about 20 students participated in A-W’s Day of Silence, which began after a student requested to have it.
“Like last year, we’re allowing students to express themselves and to learn about and be aware of differences among students,” said Briggs. “We’re not doing anything major — we’re not holding a big assembly.”
“We’re allowing students who’d like to participate,” he said.
In opposition of GLSEN’s socio-political goals is the American Family Association, a pro-family organization which spurs activism directed to Preservation of Marriage and the Family; Decency and Morality; Sanctity of Human Life; Stewardship and Media Integrity.
The organization calls on parents to keep their children out of school during the Day of Silence and to contact school officials and school boards expressing their displeasure.
Last year some parents did just that, said Briggs, noting school attendance did drop but not significantly.
Students who do not come to school that day in opposition to the Day of Silence receive “excused absences,” said Briggs.
As of Monday, no students have requested to have an opportunity to hold an event countering the Day of Silence.
“The measuring stick we apply to this is if any sort of event is going to cause a material disruption to the classroom, then we can’t support that,” he said. “Having 20 students participate did not cause us not to have school last year.”
“What we’re trying to do is allow all of our students to have the opportunity to express differences and show who they are in an accepting way,” said Briggs.
In checking with other area school districts, A-W is the only one observing the Day of Silence.
Other districts are participating in the Blue Out Day, which will is also celebrated Friday and is part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Businesses, schools, and community members are encouraged to wear blue on this day to remember children who have suffered from abuse and in support of efforts to prevent abuse.
According to Union County States Attorney Jerry Miller, the wearing of blue is to signify the blue color of a bruise and to bring awareness to the issue of child abuse in our effort to have people talk about this issue.