Silence, the largest single student-led action towards creating
safer schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender
identity or gender expression. Virginia students started the first
day of silence in 1996. GLSEN became its official organizational
sponsor in 2001.Last year’s Day of Silence honored Lawrence “Larry”
King, the 15-year-old student shot and killed in his California
high school because of his sexual orientation and gender
This year’s Day of Silence follows the tragic suicide of
11-year-old Carl Walker-Hoover from Massachusetts. Carl hung
himself in his home. He was relentlessly bullied in school “for
being gay,” even though the young boy never identified himself as
such. (Read his mother’s interview in Essence.)
Equality Council knows that children tease and target each
other for things that may or may not be true. Oftentimes the
children of LGBT parents are teased or bullied for “being gay”
because kids know they have LGBT parents. The first thing we can do
to stop this kind of bullying is acknowledge it exists and give it
equal ground with other forms of bullying and harassment.
That’s why we work to include “actual or perceived” and
“association with” language in the safe schools policies we
“Actual or perceived” language means that children
are protected against targeted bullying even if they don’t actually
“fit” the category or notion the bullying kid has in mind. If a
darker skinned Latino child is bullied because another child
perceives him to be African-American, it doesn’t matter that the
child is not African-American. It’s the intent of the bullying that
“Association with” languages recognizes people
closely connected to someone who fits into a protected category.
For LGBT families, this most often means the children of LGBT
Naming categories helps clarify for students, parents and educators
what kinds of behaviors are unacceptable and what to look out for,
as protected categories are based on the most targeted kinds of
bullying. Categories tell students, hey, you have a right to have
your school deal with this–you’re protected, too.
Minnesota Safe Schools for All Bill
Safe schools legislation is active in a number of states this year.
The Family Equality Council is leading the effort with OutFront
Minnesota to pass the “Safe Schools for All Bill” in Minnesota.
Currently, 90% of LGBT students in Minnesota and 40% of children
with LGBT parents nationwide report verbal harassment in their
schools, while 93% of Minnesota school districts do not
specifically protect LGBT students and the children of LGBT
parents. (To read more about LGBT families in schools, click here.)
Just yesterday the Minnesota Senate gave preliminary approval to SF
971, the Senate version of our bill. We’re working hard to get a
YES vote in the House on HF 1198, SF 971’s companion, in the next
few weeks. More than 35 community groups and organizations support
this bill, including Education Minnesota, the state’s largest
If you live in Minnesota, contact your state representative today.
Tell your rep to support HF 1198, the “Safe Schools for All Bill,”
because every child should be safe to learn in schools. Find out
who represents you here: http://www.gis.leg.mn/mapserver/districts/
To read an op-ed by Andy Berlin, a gay high school student bullied
out of his Minnesota school, click here.
To read an op-ed by Jacqueline White, a Minnesota parent and former
school policy adviser to the Rainbow Families School Initiative,
To stay up-to-date on the “Safe Schools for All Bill,” join the MN
Safe Schools for All Facebook group here.