WMU News

Students participate in April 13 Day of Silence

April 1, 2005

KALAMAZOO--Silence may be golden, but it also can be instructive.

Students throughout Southwest Michigan hope to prove that point Wednesday, April 13, by participating in this year's national Day of Silence.

Throughout the school day, high school and college students around the region and across the country will stop speaking as a way of drawing attention to the discrimination, harassment and abuse that serve to silence many lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender--LBGT--students and their allies at school.

Regional Day of Silence events for 2005 include a 5 p.m. rally and speakout and 7 p.m. dance in the West Ballroom of the Bernhard Center on Western Michigan University's main campus in Kalamazoo. All of these activities are free and open to the public.

State Rep. Alexander Lipsey and Kalamazoo Mayor Robert Jones are expected to attend either the rally or speakout. Among the schools invited to participate are those in Kent County and in Allegan, Barry, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties.

The regional activities are being organized by Beth Clark, youth outreach coordinator for the Kalamazoo Gay/Lesbian Resource Center, a local non-profit organization devoted to creating a healthy community that celebrates the diversity of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Clark says the results of a 2005 survey that she conducted of Southwest Michigan youths who are heterosexual and who are LBGT or questioning their sexual orientation has made this year's event particularly meaningful for her.

"I found that in Southwest Michigan, LBGT and questioning youth are much more likely to use substances and to contemplate and attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers," she says. "I'm thankful that so many community leaders, educators, administrators and students recognize the importance of joining together in support of sexual minority youth and their allies."

Clark adds that for many students around the region, the Day of Silence has reduced some of the anxiety they feel at school.

"As one local high school student put it, 'the day raises awareness that there are LBGT and questioning people everywhere, and that you don't have to be gay to be supportive of gay people,'" she says.

The Day of Silence is being sponsored at the national level by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, a national nonprofit organization working to create safe schools for all LBGT students, in collaboration with the United States Student Association, America's oldest and largest national student organization.

For more information about Day of Silence activities taking place in Southwest Michigan, contact Clark at (269) 349-4234 or visit the Kalamazoo Gay/Lesbian Resource Center Web site at <www.kglrc.org>. For more information about the national Day of Silence, visit <www.dayofsilence.org>. More information about the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network is available at <www.glsen.org>, and more information about WMU's Office of LBGT Student Services is available at <www.lbgt.wmich.edu>.

Media Note: Day of Silence volunteers and students, parents and teachers representing eight local schools will be available to the media from 4 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 13, in the West Ballroom of the Bernhard Center at WMU. Members of the media are invited to conduct interviews, take photos and shoot videotape at this time as well as to stay and cover the rally at 5 p.m.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 269 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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