Conservative Christians Organize Day of Silence Walkout

This is just a perfect example of how the Religious Right distorts the facts to suit their own needs.

On April 17th, students who choose to will participate in the Day of Silence:

The Day of Silence… is a student-led day of action when concerned students, from middle school to college, take some form of a vow of silence to bring attention to the name-calling, bullying and harassment — in effect, the silencing — experienced by LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) students and their allies.

The Illinois Family Institute is calling for Christian parents to pull their children out of school that day in response (emphasis theirs):

Parents must actively oppose this hijacking of the classroom for political purposes. Please join the national effort to restore to public education a proper understanding of the role of government-subsidized schools. Please help de-politicize the learning environment by calling your child out of school if your child’s school allows students to remain silent during instructional time on the Day of Silence.

The executive director of IFI, David Smith, had this to say about the event:

“Well, often students take a vow of silence on this day to protest perceived or real injustices against students who are homosexual, self-identify as being homosexual, bi-sexual, transgender or — I’m sure there is another acronym out there, too — but anyway, those students who are perceived or self-identify as that, they take a vow of silence,” he says.

Smith notes schools handle the event in different ways. Some choose not to participate, some allow students to participate outside of class, while others will have teachers who participate in the classroom.

I don’t know any teachers who are actively participating in this event — remaining silent and not educating in the process. IFI makes it sound like a teacher who gives a test on that day (and doesn’t say anything) is implicit in some sort of evil conspiracy. Teachers have a job to do and, unless they can effectively teach without talking, they need to carry on with their work. Just like pharmacists should not be allowed to deny a woman birth-control or morning-after pills for “conscience” reasons, teachers should not be denying students of an education for their own political reasons.

Let’s break this down a little more and see where (and how often) IFI gets it wrong.

They offer a PDF of the reasons for staging a walkout. Here’s what it says:

School administrators err when they allow the classroom to be disrupted and politicized by granting students permission to remain silent throughout an entire day.

School administrators do not “allow” silence. This is a student-led activity.

Furthermore, no school I know of requires every student to speak in their classes. Some students are just quiet. As a teacher, it’s my job to get them involved, but I can’t get every student to talk in every class.

(I also don’t know of many teachers who would find silence disruptive…)

The DOS requires that teachers either create activities around the silence of some or many, or exempt silent students from any activity that involves speaking.

The DOS requires nothing from teachers. That’s a flat-out lie.

No one has told me — or any teacher I know — to restructure our lesson plans around the DOS.

In fact, classes should (and will) go on as scheduled. No student would be exempt from making a presentation, or taking a test, or participating in class. If a student doesn’t want to talk, he can write out his answers. If a student doesn’t want to give a presentation on that day, he should’ve scheduled it for another day.

IFI says in an email that they contacted a high school principal who said just as much. Watch how IFI spins it:

When asked whether students would yet again be permitted to remain silent during instructional time in order to participate in the GLSEN-created political action, Day of Silence, Mr. Pryma responded that students have a constitutionally protected right to remain silent all 180 days of the school year. Apparently, with a straight face he is trying to suggest that the expectations for student participation are precisely the same on the Day of Silence as they are on any other day of the school year… Mr. Pryma then said that if silence or refusal to speak ever becomes disruptive, the administration will address it.

This is the standard administrative talking point…

There’s no talking point. The same rules apply on the Day of Silence as apply any other day. IFI just seems frustrated because they can’t find anything legitimate to attack.

Day of Silence participants claim they seek to end discrimination. There is, however, a problem with the way “discrimination” is defined in public discourse today. Groups like GLSEN believe that statements of moral conviction with which they disagree constitute prejudice or discrimination.

GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) isn’t trying to convince people to endorse homosexuality. They want to bring attention to the bullying and harassment GLBT students face on a regular basis.

Is IFI in favor of the bullying and harassment of GLBT students? I would hope not.

Finally, DOS supporters contend that one of their purposes is to end harassment. What they fail to acknowledge is that the worthy end of eliminating harassment does not justify the means of exploiting instructional time. There are myriad other ways to work toward that end. DOS participants have a First Amendment right to wear t-shirts, or put up posters, or host after-school speakers, or set up tables from which to distribute informative materials. They ought not to be allowed to manipulate instructional time in the service of their socio-political goals.

Once again, no students are losing instructional time in the classroom whether or not they participate. The only students who would lose that time are children who are pulled out of class — and the IFI is endorsing this.

So much for getting an education.

Finally, the IFI says they are against the silence because it “politicizes the classroom for ideological purposes.”

Again, that’s just not true.

Earlier in the school year, some students across the country participated in a similar “Pro-life Day of Silent Solidarity.” They remained silent all day on behalf of potential babies who were aborted.

In a conversation with me last month, David Smith said IFI didn’t support this event. (In the conversation, he’s referred to as “them.”)

However, his organization did not issue a single press release condemning this event nor did they request that parents pull their children out of the classroom in response.

The Illinois Family Institute is not against silence or the “politicization of the classroom.”

They are against supporters of GLBT rights.

And they are hypocrites.

  • Corey in Liberty, Missouri

    They would be up in arms if someone said the same about the ‘Day of Silence’ for aborted fetuses.(not sure if that is a national thing, or if some people in my high school just had an idea)

  • Vincent

    the hypocrisy is staggering.
    “I don’t want class time disrupted so I’m taking a bunch of kids out of class.
    Now the only people it’s disruptive to are those whose parents have chosen to disrupt their education time by taking them out of school.

  • geru

    The LGBT supporters protest by being silent, and the anti-GLBT people counter-protest by going home? This has got the be the weirdest and probably most ineffective protest I have ever heard about. :)

  • http://www.otmatheist.com hoverFrog

    David Smith needs to look up the meaning of acronym.

    Good for the students though.

  • cassiek

    The hypocrisy and thinly veiled contempt just oozing from this guy makes me feel ill. On the day one of their kids is beaten bloody for being a christian by a group of gay students they will have a right to protest. Until then, stfu.

    On the bright side, my children, ages 20-24, and their friends seem to feel that rights for gays and lesbians should be a nonissue. I believe when their generation starts making policy in twenty years or so we will see quite a few changes.

  • Renacier

    This may be off topic, but every time I read about the GLBT movement, I crave a BLT. This never happened back when it was just the GLB movement. Transgenders are bad for my waistline.

  • Takma’rierah

    Yep, so wrong they can’t even use the word acronym in a sentence. Way to be discredited from the start.

  • http://blaghag.blogspot.com/ Jennifurret

    So the end up disrupting their child’s school day by completely taking them out of class? Wow, there’s some stellar logic for you right there.

  • http://omega-geek.blogspot.com Spook

    Why am I not surprised that this organization wallows in lies and hypocrisy?

    Anyway; have you considered sending this in to a local paper as an editorial? Or something more public than a popular blog?

    The more publicly these clowns can be shamed for their endless lies, the better.

  • http://trainbiggermonkeys.com/blog Yuri Nalarm

    Whatever reason they can muster to prevent their brainwashed children from receiving a proper education. Good for them, reduce the class sizes so the people that actually want to learn can easier.

    We should be thanking them.

  • Polly

    a proper understanding of the role of government-subsidized schools.

    I wonder what they’d think of the minute of silence at the beginning of class? I have yet to meet a fundie who has a proper understanding about anything regarding the separation of church and state in general, especially with regard to education.

    The hypocrisy is sickening and obvious to anyone who isn’t a part of the worldwide cult of fundamentalism.

  • forkboy1965

    Odd….I thought fundamentalists were all about a moment of silence in schools?

    Would they be all worked up if someone had suggested a DoS in honour/memory of all the aborted fetuses out there?

    I guess their real problem isn’t the silent protest itself, but what is being supported by the protest.

    Assholes.

  • http://themousesnest.blogspot.com Mouse

    When I was teaching, the Upper School students organized DoS for the first time–and a bunch of Middle School students spontaneously joined in. The next years, the Middle School administration worked with the student group to make it smoother.

    It’s not like *all* the kids will participate, so there are still some who can answer questions. And we also gave all students time to reflect on the day afterwards.

    As a teacher, I would usually acknowledge what was happening to each class. I had thought about participating myself–there are ways to do it, beyond giving a test or showing a movie–but ended up telling those students who asked that I had already spent all the time I could stand being silent and as a teacher it was my job to say something about it now.

    (And in my reading on autism and peer training to help other students understand autism, I’ve come across statistics on how making schools safe environments for *all* children leads to higher academic achievement across the board.)

  • kim

    This is what I received from the AFA (american family association)

    “Please help us get this information into the hands of as many people as possible by forwarding it to your entire e-mail list of family and friends.

    If your child’s school allows “Day of Silence” propaganda, keep your child at home April 17

    April 7, 2009

    Dear kim,

    The Day of Silence, which is sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), fast approaches. This year it will take place in most public schools on April 17. On this day, thousands of public high schools and increasing numbers of middle schools will allow students to remain silent throughout an entire day-even during instructional time-to promote GLSEN’s socio-political goals and its controversial, unproven, and destructive theories on the nature and morality of homosexuality.

    Parents must actively oppose this hijacking of the classroom for political purposes. Please join the national effort to restore to public education a proper understanding of the role of government-subsidized schools. You can help de-politicize the learning environment by calling your child out of school if your child’s school allows students to remain silent during instructional time on the Day of Silence.

    Parents should no longer passively countenance the political usurpation of public school classrooms through student silence.

    If students will be permitted to remain silent, parents can express their opposition most effectively by calling their children out of school on the Day of Silence and sending letters of explanation to their administrators, their children’s teachers, and all school board members. One reason this is effective is that most school districts lose money for each student absence.

    School administrators err when they allow the classroom to be disrupted and politicized by granting students permission to remain silent throughout an entire day.

    Visit this website for complete information on opposing the Day of Silence.”

    They twist the whole concept—it is a protest by students agains harassement period.

  • Chelsea

    Is this actually surprising to anyone?

  • «bønez_brigade»

    “Parents must actively oppose this hijacking of the classroom for political purposes.”
    A couple of rhetorical detection meters are now in need of repair.

    Hey, IFI! You guys over on the far right side of the room. Yes, you all. There will be a vocabulary quiz on Friday. Only two words will be on this quiz: acronym and hypocrisy. So, get to gettin’ yer learn on, pronto. You have three days. Next week, we’ll add another word.

    BTW, speaking of DoS, I’d say the IFI is executing a DoS on their own kids’ education, so to speak.

  • France

    What none of you seems to realize is that (a) bullying and harassment is already covered by a laws on the books so we need to enforce the laws we already have, (b) there is a no reason to create a separate and special space for homosexuals, which is exactly what the homosexual lobby wants to do – be special, (c) ‘separation of church and state’ is NOWHERE to be found in our Constitution. The clause that is frequently misquoted is the ‘Establishment’ clause – “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;” In other words, Government, stay out of teaching morality! That is the job of the parents!

  • Me

    The most annoying thing about this is that it’ll most likely be a roaring success, because a significant amount of kids involved in this walkout will be doing it simply to get a day off school without consideration of the meaning behind it.

  • Curtis

    I want my children to get an education and I certainly oppose hijacking of the classroom for political purposes. If they want to protest before/after school, great. If they want to wear T-shirts for a cause, no problem. Math class is for learning math and silence lessens the education potential.

    There are dozens of important causes I agree with and dozens I do not. I do not want a silence for Darfur day. I do not want a silence for Darwin day. I do not want silence for Good Friday. I do not want silence for Martin Luther King’s birthday. If one silent day is a good thing, then a dozen silent days must be better.

    The cause is right. The method is crap.
    Note: If there had been an egregious incident at the school, I would support an in school action.

  • Polly

    I’m inclinced to agree with Curtis. Not working in a school, I really don’t know about the logistics. But, the silence thing has the potential to become a distraction from learning.

    Not speaking takes some conscious effort. That’s mental effort that might distract from the work at hand.

    But, I’m certain that IFI is not opposing the DoS on pragmatic grounds. And, removing your kids from school is certainly far more disruptive to their education. Not to mention that it provides a socially sanctioned ditch-day for every one else.

  • http://trainbiggermonkeys.com/blog Yuri Nalarm

    I disagree with Curtis and Polly greatly. There is no current Political discussion class in highschool. (At least not in the one I went to). Displaying your attitude in front of a bunch of people who may not even be aware is what political protest was invented for. If the students become a distraction, remove them. But I doubt being quiet is much of a disturbance. If we expect our children to grow up and learn to be active for what they believe in, we can’t simply stifle them because it’s a math class.

  • Curtis

    Since the school year begins in September, I thought I would look for equally important days to be silent for in September:
    September 1 – Massacre of Political Prisoners
    September 8 – International Literacy Day
    September 11 – Remember Freedom Day
    September 12 – Suicide Prevention Day and Oral Health Day
    September 16 – International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer
    September 17 – International Day for Darfur
    September 18 – POW/MIA Recognition Day
    September 20 – Zero Emission Day and America’s Day for Kids
    September 22 – Car Free Day
    September 23 – Ecological Debt Day
    September 23 – Victims of the Holocaust
    September 24 – World AIDS day
    September 25 – American Indian Heritage Day
    September 27 – Family Health and Fitness Day
    September 28th – Freedom from Hunger Day

    I think we should be silent on all these days. Talking would show we do not care about Suicide, Ozone Layer, Darfur, Freedom, AIDS, Hunger, etc.

    I would have added September 19 (Talk Like a Pirate Day) but I guess that is not a silent day.

  • Takma’rierah

    Y’know, I took part in the DOS my last year in high school, and far from being disruptive it was quite fun and entertaining; especially since some of us interpreted it in different ways than others. For instance, some of us wrote to speak with each other and I, personally, decided that for communication purposes (quite apart from educational purposes) I would only be able to communicate through non-language means, which boiled down to a day of extended Pictionary. It was made quite clear to all of us that we should still speak if it was for class purposes, and it was a good way to get other people involved who wanted to get in on the antics but might not have otherwise have taken part. It was not nearly as disruptive as, say, Senior Skip Day or the asinine mandatory pep rallies. It’s silly to get activism-envy over this particular cause having a DOS and others not; it’s silly to get up in arms over a bit of harmless fun that doesn’t interfere with anything, period.

  • http://noadi.blogspot.com Noadi

    My mom’s a teacher, I had to read this to her and her reaction was “Wait, kids are being voluntarily quiet? Sounds like a great idea to me.”

    The idea anyone would think kids sitting quietly in class would be anything but the opposite of disruptive clearly is unable to think or hasn’t been in a highschool recently.

  • Robin

    Two thoughts. One: If this is a student organized event, where students are being silent to protest, how exactly are schools supposed to prevent it? We can’t force them to speak. I suppose that we could kick silent, non-disruptive students out of class, or give students detention for not speaking, but that would make the teachers and administration look completely stupid, which, frankly, we are trying pretty hard to avoid with this age-group. Lost credibility is deadly.
    Thought two: I observed one middle school student participate in this event last year. (In a school of around 400 middle school students.) He was harrassed by the other students in class about being gay. (As far as I could tell, the student did not identify as homosexual, but had a friend or family member who did.) In the end, he gave up, and I was not in a position to intervene, which was very difficult. I suppose you could argue that he was disrupting the class, but, had I been the classroom teacher, I’d have been more inclined to discipline his tormentors.

  • David D.G.

    Hemant, I agree with Spook. This would be a fantastic guest editorial in a local paper, at the very least, if not syndicated.

    ~David D.G.

  • http://enlightened-atheist.blogspot.com/ Thilina

    Worst part is the people who are gonna be hurt the most is the kids of the ignorant parents.

    No parent has the right to use their children to protest for their cause.

    The people paritcipating in DoS isn’t doing anything wrong. Parents denying their own kids a education is very wrong.

  • Brooks

    I think it’s hypocritical that these fundies are protesting against politicalizing the class room by doing an equally politically-motivated action by removing their children from the classroom. It’s also interesting to me that it’s the parents who want to remove their children but does anyone stop to ask their children if they actually want to go to school that day?

  • http://gaytheistagenda.lavenderliberal.com/ Buffy

    Schools permit children to pray, read their Bibles and otherwise engage in religious activities that don’t disrupt school activities. Therefore there is no legitimate reason they shouldn’t allow this event. School administrators are not being forced to do anything here, nor are they actively promoting it. DOS is a student activity.

    Students remaining silent one day out of a year is not in any way disruptive to class or school activities no matter what a bunch of anti-gay bigots like to claim. They just can’t stand the idea of people doing anything to challenge their hatred and intolerance of LGBT people.

  • Michie

    Christians don’t hate gays and lesbians . Some who call themselves Christians or believe in marriage the way God describes it in the Bible have allowed themselves to treat homosexuals in a way that is NOT Christlike,and this makes it hard on those who care about them. There is no excuse for harrassment or physical abuse of ANY human being. Unfortunately, we who try to live as Jesus would have us live, and love like He does,want the Truth to be shared and let people make their free-will choice. In the final scheme of things, God will call each to an accounting for his actions and our choices , whether we believe in God or not, will determine our place in eternity. WHAT IF IT’S TRUE? God loves each of you whether you even believe in Him or NOT. Let us be mindful of how we show our disapproval of the Perceived sins of each other.That goes for each of us.Wonder what Comment moderation there will be for my honest thoughts:)

  • Emily

    I am not someone who normally comes on this website, because I am a Chistian mother and disagree with supporting immorality, eventhough I do understand that we all fall short. However, when I heard about the Day of Silence I wanted to get more information and I saw your heading about Christians taking a stand against it. I have to say I agree a stand needs to be made. I have no problem with wanting to stop harrasment and cruelty to fellow students, but guess what, this will more than likely make you a target. You know everyday I have a child that dreads going to school because she is bullied for being smart, shes picked on for being chubby, but she and other kids like her aren’t getting a national day of people standing up for them. If you want to take a stand against cruelty make it across the board, don’t seperate youselves even more!

  • Randy

    Its funny, the DOS website states that the purpose is to end bullying, name calling and harrassment because 4 out of 5 GLBT students face this issue in school.

    Guess what, 80% or more of the entire student population faces this problem on a regular basis. Bullying, name calling, and other emotional abuses of one form or another happen every day. My kids are as mainstream as they come, and they been called losers, stupid, B**** etc. Its a flavor of the day for goodness sake. Kids have been bullying other kids probably since Jesus’ day. The issue seems to be that the GLBT community tries very hard to make the victim status something special and different. Unfortunately, all of us get treated like garbage on occasion. We all learn to deal with people that hate us for no apparent reason. Just deal with it.

    And if you can even begin to compare getting called a name, however, ugly it may be, to the killing of 30 million unborn children, then your priorities are severely out of whack.

  • Kathryn

    Randy, the problem is not so much that kids are getting picked on. It’s what they are getting picked on for, and how this bullying can escalate into something much greater. The DoS draws attention not just to everyday harassment but to the extreme violence some take it to. Every day, kids live in fear of their peers discovering something they cannot help. Yes, everyone gets mocked here and there, and it is part of growing up. But some kids do not even have the opportunity to grow up. Kids are killed for their gender expression. “Just deal with it” doesn’t exactly help that situation.

    As for the mother of the smart, chubby girl who is picked on, would you rather she hide her intelligence, act ashamed of who she is? She has that right, certainly, and who could blame her for taking that route? But there are others who would rather stand up to the bullying and say, “This is WRONG!” even if it might draw more attention to them. That is how progress is made.

  • GullWatcher

    Randy, you picked a bad day to try to make your point. Yes, many kids get picked on, and one way they get picked on is being called gay, whether they are or aren’t. Today’s news included a piece on an boy who hung himself because of the non-stop taunting, mostly consisting of accusing him of being gay.

    He was only 11.

    I doubt if even he knew if he might be or not, but that wasn’t the point. The point is, the harassment has got to stop.

  • Emily

    In no way shape form or fashion do I ever want my daughter to hide who she is or to be ashamed. My point is that if you want to stand up tp violence and harassment then great, but why is it only for the LGBT kids. Why can’t we stand up with our kids against all violence in the schools. Because kids are going to be bullied for one reason or the other and I would love to see people stand up to it across the board and say its wrong, not just that it’s wrong to do to certain groups.

  • Ashley

    It’s obvious that they have no real arguement here, and that they’re just being total hypocrites. I think that what the DoS promotes is extremely important. I’m a bi-sexual student, and I have faced so much harassment and contempt because of my sexuality. It’s a difficult thing to go through, and it’s refreshing to know that there are people who actually give a damn about how I feel as a person, rather then just judging me by the fact that I like boys and girls. The only thing disrupting classrooms today is the constant bullying kids face. Silence will be much appreciated by the teachers, regardless to what it’s for. And, excuse my language, but the IFI can fuck themselves. They’re being ignorant assholes. My school has a day every week for kids to pray around the flagpole, so why can’t we have one day out of the entire school year to stay silent? It’s the students decision, and they have no right to try and justify preventing this day in school, especially by suggesting other students be pulled out of school.

  • Andy

    The point already made is that homophobic bullying happens to EVERY STUDENT regardless of the student’s actual orientation.

    It’s not asking for special treatment for queer students. It’s asking that no student, gay or straight, be tormented with such slurs.

    There is absolutely nothing about DoS that says that it’s okay to bully people who aren’t queer, and in fact, when I was in school and participated in DoS, the point was that it does affect everyone, and that it’s not okay to bully anyone.

  • mia

    Good for the students who choose to walkout if the school allows kids to be silent during instructional time.

    A walkout wouldn’t be any different.

    Good for them.


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