LOS ANGELES: The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) asked kids to keep quiet on April 12 in a peaceful protest aimed at highlighting issues of discrimination in schools.Dubbed the "Day of Silence,
participants in the three-year-old event took a vow to remain mute at school for six hours to protest harassment of children with alternative sexual orientations. Rather than speaking out, those involved in the protest passed out cards that explained their actions.
The handouts read, in part, "Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence, a national youth movement protesting the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their allies. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by harassment, prejudice, and discrimination."
Kids in more than 1,800 schools in 50 states participated, according to GLSEN spokesman Chad Bovee - up from only 200 schools last year.
The event drew enormous media coverage. NPR featured a live one-hour segment on the protest on Talk of the Nation. Coverage also appeared in an AP package, USA Today, Headline News, and "a whole slew of other newspapers
around the country, from Alaska to Florida, according to Bovee.
Not all groups were supportive of the action, however. The American Family Association (AFA), a conservative Christian group, held a counter-protest that day called "Truth Without Interruption Day," complete with a handout of its own, on the theme "God loves the homosexual - yet he hates the sin.
The handout detailed the story of Stephen Bennett, a minister who renounced his homosexuality after being sexually active with more than 100 men.
"We're breaking the silence of apathy and intimidation,
"We firmly believe no one is born homosexual. It has everything to do with your childhood."