This event is part of an international movement by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.
Participating students spent the school day in red shirts with duct tape over their mouths.
“The Day of Silence is [Gay Straight Aliance’s] biggest event of the year that we organize,” said Ethan Choy, Dougherty Valley GSA vice president. “What it means to me personally is really how we can empathize with people who are still hiding or people who have come out and how they felt originally.”
About 80 students wore the red shirts and placed colorful duct tape over their mouths. And more than 400 of the school’s 1,600 students showed their support by wearing bracelets or ribbons on their wrists.
“I want to make this school more tolerant,” GSA President Cierra Green said. “I’ve noticed a difference in atmosphere on campus compared to my freshman and sophomore year. People are a lot more accepting. Today has been a lot easier than it was last year.”
In addition to student support, several faculty and staff members wore the red Day of Silence shirts, including Assistant Principal Jason Krolikowski.
“We don’t ask our teachers to judge morally or ethically wrong,” Krolikowksi said. “In this case, [the day of silence] is more about the student and how they feel, and we need them to come to school and feel accepted and that this is their home and a place to be and to feel safe [not just today, but everyday].”
The sentiment applies to all students.
“The staff responded very well,” Green said. “They say 'good job,' and they’re proud of us standing up for who we believe in.”
After giving a presentation to the faculty about the Day of Silence and its meaning, Green said she received three hugs from teachers.
“I talked about how high school is important times for us, because this is the time we get to figure out who we are,” she said. “And people who are silenced for being gay, they miss out on that opportunity, making it easier for society to mold them into who they want them to be because they can’t speak of who they are.”
Aside from a few laughs or snickers, the students said the event was well received, with other students showing support or indifference without ostracizing them or their cause.
“In classrooms I don’t feel as alone, but when I’m walking alone in hallways, I feel very alone,” Green said of wearing the duct tape. “You feel very isolated when you wear the duct tape. Everyone knows, you feel like the attention is all on you.”
The event was publicized with posters and announcements. Choy said that the most difficult part of organizing the day was convincing students to be brave enough to sign up.
“Some people you know are just OK with it,” Choy said. “They’ll sign up for it. They don’t care what people say. But people who we know are allies are still scared to support us sometimes, and that was probably the hardest part.”
GSA adviser Allison Gardiner said that students at Dougherty Valley are much more accepting than students at other schools at which she has taught.
“Kids have had things thrown at them, everything from being shoved into lockers, water bottles thrown at them, clay in art class, papers, just pushed in the hallway,” Gardiner said. “Especially on the Day of Silence, when that’s almost a spotlight on the issue.”
One of GSA's goals is to stop people from using the phrase “That’s so gay” as a substitute for words such as "dumb" or "stupid."
“To hear the word 'gay' as a substitute for 'dumb' or 'stupid' or 'unnecessary' is sort of derogatory and demeaning to people that are LGBT and just to kind of stop that is something powerful,” Gardiner said.
Green said that many students on campus have started to become more tolerant and have stopped using the phrase.
The students feel good about what they have accomplished through the GSA club, and about its mission to raise LGBT awareness and to bring equality to people of all sexual orientations.
“There are a lot of people being bulled, harassed and teased for being who they are, and I think it’s wrong,” Green said.” I think society should stop outcasting people, because we are all the same.”