Upstanding Outside of Class: Gay-Straight Alliance

Posted by Elana Goldbaum on April 24, 2013

Day of Silence

At my school Friday, students flooded the hallways and it was oddly quiet but there was a magical energy in there air. April 19th, this year's Day of Silence, was when students all over the country took a day-long vow of silence to represent those in the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Questions) community who are forced into silence by society. Everywhere I looked, there were glimpses of rainbow pins and colored duct tape covering the mouths of the those participating or on the sleeves of students who supported their peers.

One of my favorite days of the year, Day of Silence allows students to practice being an upstander, one who stands up against injustice and a major theme in Facing History material, rather than merely discussing the idea in class. I know that teachers often want to give students the opportunity to take action, but it can be difficult with state tests and a pacing guide to finish. This is where extra-curriculars and student clubs can shine. For example, Gay-Straight Alliance is a great way for students to discuss gender norms and create a plan to change the perception of LGBTQ members from outsiders, those who are seen as strange or not belonging, to accepted and respected members of the school - also a great weapon to prevent bullying. It may take some time and structure - try talking to a group of students who you know are interesting in starting a GSA and discuss who will lead and what they'd like their goals for the year to be. Participating in Day of Silence can be one of those goals and is an easy one to achieve with resources like this: http://www.dayofsilence.org/ where students can print off free flyers for their school's use.

Another opportunity for students to flex their social consciousness muscle in April is Denim Day. This April 24th, everyone can take a stand against sexual violence by wearing denim (http://denimdayusa.org/). School clubs like GSA or Student Government can generate a great discussion about the very serious problem of sexual violence, especially with events like the Steubenville rape case this year. High School is probably the most appropriate age group to include in an event like this, and holding an after school discussion sponsored and run by a student club can allow students to feel more at ease to talk about sexual violence.

The possibilities of extending Facing History after the school day with clubs like Gay-Straight Alliance are endless!

Topics: Choosing to Participate, Bullying

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