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LI schools participate in 'Day of Silence' in support of LGBT people
It’s about 2:10 p.m. and scores of middle school students gather in silence in the Jericho Middle School library. “Don’t talk! Don’t talk until after the scream,” teacher Elisa Waters reminds the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders as they file in and form a circle.
Then, on the command of Waters – and in the presence of the school principal – the kids let out a raucous scream that goes on and on.
The cacophonous outburst marks the grand finale of what for these kids was a voluntary day of silence – more than 130 of Jericho’s 650-plus sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders vowed not to talk at all during the school day on Wednesday. The nationwide Day of Silence is a way students across the country show support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who sometimes feel they don’t have a voice.
“During lunch was the hardest, because I was with my friends,” says Rebecca Saban, 13. “But a lot of my friends were doing it, too. Since a lot of people in the school are doing it, it makes a point.”
The actual Day of Silence is Friday. But Jericho had its day on Wednesday instead because teachers didn’t want to have it the day before the weeklong spring break that begins Friday afternoon, says Waters, who is a Spanish teacher and co-adviser to the school's Gay Straight Alliance, which spearheaded the middle school's event.
Students at more than 25 Long Island schools have also registered to mark the Day of Silence on various days this week, including Friday, says Daryl Presgraves, communications director at the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, a New York City-based organization that focuses on LGBT issues at K through 12 schools.
At Jericho, students wore stickers on their shirts explaining their involvement. They also hung signs in the hallways declaring why they chose to participate. “I’m participating in the Day of Silence because I want to know how it feels to be in a position where you don’t speak because you’re too scared you’ll be judged,” one sign said.
In addition to the group scream, the day at Jericho ended with kids sharing their feelings about the event, and then the sharing of desserts they and the teachers brought in for the “Rainbow Bake-Off” – rainbow colored cookies, cupcakes with rainbow sprinkles and a cake toped with concentric circles of rainbow-colored M&Ms.