Students plan Day of Silence Friday


Sam Talbot

Senior Abby Duffy helps students sign up for Friday’s Day of Silence.

A growing number of students from Concord High School will participate in the Day of Silence Friday, April 22, to protest the harmful effects of harassment and discrimination of LGBTQ people in schools.

“CHS students have been participating in this national day of action for 16 years,” said CHS English teacher Heather Ouellette-Cygan, advisor of Tide Pride Gay & Straight Alliance. “At present over 60 students have signed up to participate and more will sign up tomorrow.”

Anyone and everyone is welcome to participate. Students and staff can sign up in the cafeteria during the lunch block.

“The Day of Silence for me is very serious, as it is a day to exercise our freedom of protest and freedom of speech (ironically, by not speaking at all),” said sophomore Zee Laliotis. “It is a day to draw attention to the silencing of LGBTQIA+ children and adolescents in our schools and other institutions.”

“I feel that anyone should be able to participate, even if they are not in the LGBT community,” said Bella Sargeant, a freshman member of Tide Pride.

In a message to faculty members late Monday, following this week’s GSA meeting, Ouellette-Cygan said “a number of students reported push back against the Day of Silence that was rude and unacceptable from other students in this building. I have not had students report this kind of behavior toward them since my early days of advising the club in the 2000’s.”

Principal Mike Reardon addressed the entire CHS community early Monday about escalating unacceptable behaviors including pushing, shoving, profanity and “the harassment and intimidation of other students.”

“The foundation of our school is the emotional and physical safety of every student,” he said. “While that standard’s not being met, things are not going to be normal.” Students are prohibited from congregating on Main Street between classes for the foreseeable future.

The Day of Silence is a nationwide event organized by the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), an organization founded in 1990 by a group of teachers who wanted to support fellow educators and to uplift student-led movements in the creation of affirming learning environments for LGBTQ youth

“Unfortunately, findings from the GLSEN 2019 National School Climate Survey demonstrate that New Hampshire schools were not safe for most lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) secondary school students,” Ouellette-Cygan said.

“In addition, many LGBTQ students in New Hampshire did not have access to important school resources, such as an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum,” she continued, “and were not protected by supportive and inclusive school policies.”

On the Day of Silence this Friday, students will carry pink cards that explain their reasons for not speaking. Staff members often cannot remain silent for long stretches, but they find other ways to show support for students demanding schools that are welcoming and inclusive to all.

Reardon said that as important as academics are, “I would suggest the most important skill schools teach is how any individual conducts her or himself in society. How we learn to maneuver through the countless interactions we have each day while balancing our dignity with respect for the rights and dignity of others.”

“This is a test we all face every day in school or out, and that’s never going to change,” he added.

With Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill dominating the news of late, many students believe that “our silence is almost a way of demonstrating that if we can’t say gay, we won’t say anything at all.”