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.