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A Day of Silence at Brookwood High

Today will be a quiet day at Brookwood High School, as hundreds of students take a vow of silence and a stand against bullying.

Brookwood High School will be quieter than normal today, April 15.

Many of the youth are taking a stand in what is the largest student-led protest against bullying and harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) students in the United States. Today is the National Day of Silence.

The national event is officially sponsored by the GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network), who in turn support local Gay-Straight Alliances. Nowmee Shehab, a senior, is president of the GSA initiative at . There are about 4,000 such clubs across the nation registered with GLSEN.

Shehab revitalized the GSA in August of 2010, after having sporadic attendance since 2007.  Now, there are between 50-80 teens at each meeting.  These are not just LGBT teens, but heterosexual friends who show up as allies, as well as children of same-sex couples.  The school has been incredibly supportive of the student-led initiative. 

“Mrs. Dees (Brookwood’s principal) told all the teachers we would be participating in the Day of Silence,” Shehab said, “and that we would be distributing pins and buttons.” 

Dees has been supportive of the club since its inception, students said.

Shehab describes the event as a day when "students pledge a day of silence to show their solidarity with LGBT youth to express their stand against bullying and harassment."  The club -- which is not a school-sponsored club -- has two teachers that serves as custodians: Tina Pennell, a language arts teacher, and Jeff Corkill, a history teacher. 

Anneliese Singh, co-founder of the Georgia Safe Schools Coalition and assistant professor in the Department of Counseling and Human Development Services at the University of Georgia, said that there are dire consequences to bullying. She added that "children historically have said they don't feel like teachers will intervene," and that if they do that things will only get worse.

That became chillingly clear when, within three weeks in October 2010, five teens from various parts of the U.S. took their own lives due to what authorities believe centered on anti-gay bullying and harassment. Research shows that gay teens are four times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. 

The Georgia Safe Schools Coalition, founded in the summer of 2009, aims to educate schools, counselors, administration, faculty, and staff about issues faced by LGBT teens.  They offer support and training to GSAs across Georgia, including resources on raising awareness. 

Ken Jackson, a guidance counselor at Decatur High School, was one representative sent to Brookwood High in mid-March, after their GSA reformed under the leadership of Shehab.  

“The training that I did focused on responding to bullying and harassment,” Jackson said. He talked to the group about how to respond to bullying and when they should go to others for support and intervention.  He also taught them what harassment and bullying looked like.  

“One thing we did was to simply provide support and give the students a voice,” Jackson added.  

All emphasize the fact that no matter what a person’s perspective is on LGBT youth, no one deserves to be harassed or bullied.  Schools should be safe no matter who you are. And, that is what the Day of Silence is all about.  

For more information, visit www.dayofsilence.com.

Kim April 15, 2011 at 05:40 PM
I agree that no one, child or adult, should be bullied. My only reservation concerning this Day of Silence is that it seems to be just another forum to promote promiscuity (gay or straight) among youth that are not mature enough to understand certain aspects of their sexuality to be begin with. What about the other children and adults who are bullied every day because they wear glasses, have red hair, come from a different culture, have an accent, aren't pretty, and all the other reasons bullies use to do what they do? Bullying is a huge problem in our culture today. Making it another "gay rights issue" is unfair to others who are victims but not gay.
Raven Nichols April 15, 2011 at 10:02 PM
The goal of the Day of Silence is not to promote promiscuity. Rather, it's an effort to raise awareness about a particular group that has been notoriously bullied and abused and even killed because of their sexual orientation. Just last month another gay teen was beaten to death: http://articles.nydailynews.com/2011-03-15/news/29149194_1_gay-slurs-teens-crime-task-force. I can think of at least three other fairly recent occasions where this has happened. I have a middle school daughter, and I'm very aware that bullying is an issue for all students. But I don't remember anyone being beaten to death recently because they had red hair or wore glasses.
Raven Nichols April 15, 2011 at 10:02 PM
Every student, regardless of their sexual orientation, deserves to feel safe and respected in their learning environment. DOS was organized with that goal in mind. There are several initiatives unrelated to sexual orientation that promote bullying awareness. November 13-19 is Bullying Awareness Week, where countries all over the world focus on an intensive anti-bullying campaign. DOS just happens to be driven by the LGBT community. I don't consider the DOS to be a "gay rights issue," as you put it. And if it is, it's very sad that kids have to lobby for the right to go to school without being abused or called loathsome names. I support the DOS, and I hope it succeeds in making young people more aware of the impact their words and actions have on others. That's a lesson we all need to learn, regardless of our sexuality.
Carmen Mosley-Sims April 15, 2011 at 11:04 PM
Sexual orientation is not about promiscuity. Gay teens and adolescents can and do make the personal decision to abstain from intercourse until they are in a committed, monogamous relationship, just as straight teens and adolescents do. The difference, of course, is that for gay teens, that "committed, monogamous relationship" can never be a state-sanctioned marriage in most jurisdictions. One's sexual orientation and sexual identity is more than just who you are sleeping with. It's an integral part of one's whole identity, particularly in the adolescent years when hormones bring sexuality to the forefront. When kids are bullied because of their sexuality, whether because of a true perception of their sexuality or a false one, it strikes at the heart of their self-esteem. When adults stand by and fail to acknowledge such bullying or to take action to innoculate children against the shame and fear it brings, that inaction and apathy resonates with those children for years to come.
Nowmee Shehab April 17, 2011 at 03:26 AM
Also I would like to point out the LGBT kids are much more likely to face bullying and harassment at school. A survey done by GLSEN found that nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT kids report constantly hearing slurs and comments. LGBT kids are also more likely to drop out of school and commit suicide. Therefore, as they are a high risk demographic it is very important to stand with them

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