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social sciences

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Holidays and Observances  
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The need to put an end to violence, bullying, and intimidation could not be more clear; nevertheless, on its Day of Silence web site, GLSEN cautions that "in middle and high schools, getting support from the school administration is critical . . . because it's always important to ask and provide information to win support," which cannot be taken for granted.

Various accommodations are made for the Day of Silence. In some schools, students remain silent all day; in others, they participate in class but maintain silence during lunch hours. Students continue the practice of carrying cards explaining why they are not speaking.

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At the end of the school day, many institutions hold a "Breaking the Silence" event at which participants and others have the opportunity to reflect on their experiences. Glbtq students can express themselves in a safe environment, and potential allies can ask questions and learn valuable lessons about the terrible harm caused by prejudice, harassment, and bullying.

The Day of Silence, despite its goal of creating safer schools and communities for glbtq youth, has met with opposition: a number of conservative Christian groups, including the American Family Association, Mission: America, the Alliance Defense Fund, and the Capitol Resource Institute, have encouraged parents to keep their children home if they attend a school where the Day of Silence is being observed.

The Alliance Defense Fund has, since 2005, countered the Day of Silence with a so-called "Day of Truth" that champions compulsory heterosexuality, decrying homosexuality as sinful and promoting the discredited idea that gay men and lesbians can choose to become heterosexuals. The event has received little support.

The Capitol Resource Institute, whose agenda includes repealing a California law banning discrimination in schools on the basis on sexual orientation, in 2008 urged parents to keep their children out of schools with a Day of Silence, which, they claimed, "disrupts learning" with class discussions of the discrimination and harassment faced by glbtq students. Instead, they suggested sending the children to a "Day of Learning" in Costa Mesa because, said executive director Karen England, "if schools are to be held hostage by a social agenda for a day, we will give them an event where they can learn something."

There is indeed something to be learned--a lesson about the need for treating all people with equal respect and dignity. In 2008, some 5,400 middle schools and high schools and approximately a thousand colleges and universities participated in the Day of Silence to educate their communities about the ongoing struggle for equal rights.

Spirit Day

Related to the Day of Silence is Spirit Day, which is celebrated October 20. The observance was initiated in 2010 by teenager Brittany McMillan as a response to the national epidemic of anti-gay bullying.

Spirit Day is observed most simply by wearing or displaying purple. The idea to display purple on Spirit Day stems from the fact that in some interpretations of the Rainbow flag the color is said to symbolize "spirit."

Spirit Day is also observed at schools across the country, where Gay Straight Alliances distribute purple wristbands and hold meetings to commemorate the day.

In 2011, many media outlets and celebrities brought attention to Spirit Day as a means of supporting glbtq youth. For example, the youth-centered MTV television network displayed its support by turnits its on-air logo purple, as well as its Facebook, Twitter,, and MTV Act logos. In addition, stars of MTV shows demonstrated support by wearing purple.

Spirit Day is now sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

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