On April 17, 2009, thousands of high school and college students will attempt to remain silent for parts of the school day to raise awareness about bullying and harassment of gay, lesbian and bisexually identified students. In its 12th year, this student-run event, called the Day of Silence, is supported by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).
A coalition of conservative groups (including the American Family Association and Concerned Women for America) has responded by urging parents to keep kids away from school, either via unexcused absence or a walkout, on the Day of Silence. The coalition has a website hosted by the Illinois Family Institute which claims that
"[t]he DOS requires that teachers either create activities around or exempt silent students from any activity that involves speaking. DOS participants have a captive audience, many of whom disagree with and are made uncomfortable by the politicization of their classroom.
However, it is not true that the DOS requires teachers to do either of these things. Students are required to speak when teachers request it and no school is required to create alternative activities in order for students to participate in the objectives of the event. However, the opposition of this coalition derives from the belief that the real purpose of the Day of Silence is political. The news release of the coalition states:
The implicit purpose is to undermine the belief that homosexuality is immoral. It is the belief of the sponsors of the Walkout that parents should no longer passively accept the political usurpation of taxpayer funded public school classrooms through student silence.
Also, coming up on the Monday after the Day of Silence is the Day of Truth. Sponsored by the Alliance Defense Fund and Exodus International, the DOT "was established to counter the promotion of the homosexual agenda and express an opposing viewpoint from a Christian perspective," according to the DOT website. Presumably, those sponsoring the walkout would be in favor of the DOT, at least some of those organizations have promoted both.
Something seems wrong with this picture. Preaching to the choir is easier in some ways, but not very productive. How can we get anything accomplished if we leave the field?
The truth is same-sex attracted students in our schools have a point. They are often bullied and disrespected. Christian kids sometimes take part. There are far too many instances where our youth groups and gatherings are hostile to kids and people who are different. I spoke to a group of Christian athletes several years ago about bullying and many admitted their participation in harassing kids who were gay or who were thought to be. Brothers and sisters, this should not be so.
Can't we do better?
I propose instead of walking out, that evangelical kids pledge to do better, to do things differently.
Last year, on the Day of Silence, Campus Crusade for Christ Regional Director, Michael Frey and I promoted the idea that students in high school and college take the Golden Rule Pledge. In response to silent peers advocating for safety and respect, we hope evangelical kids will agree and pledge to treat others the way they want to be treated in return. Over 30 schools took part last year, and we hope this year we can build more bridges instead of walls.
For more information about the Golden Rule Pledge, please go to http://www.goldenrulepledge.com/. Downloadable cards and more information about the simple response are available there. Questions can be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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