Washington, DC -- Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-17) applauds everyone who is taking part in today’s National Day of Silence, coordinated nationally by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).  The Day of Silence is a day in which students from around the country take a vow of silence to bring attention to the anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) name-calling, bullying and harassment faced in schools by students, teachers and other school staff.    

The National Day of Silence started at the University of Virginia 16 years ago.  Over 500,000 students from over 8,000 junior and high schools in all 50 states and Puerto Rico have participated in the National Day of Silence in past years.

Congressman Engel was one of the first Members of Congress to acknowledge the Day of Silence and has introduced several bills over the years to support the goals and ideals of the National Day of Silence.  He introduced H. Con. Res 40 in the current 112th Congress, with 43 co-sponsors.  According to a recent GLSEN National School Climate Survey, nearly nine out of ten LGBTQ students report verbal, sexual or physical harassment at school and nearly 30 percent report missing at least one day of school in the last month for fear of their personal safety.

“Sadly, violence and discrimination against LGBTQ youth is all-too-common in American schools.  It is a national disgrace that students feel threatened in school simply because of their sexual orientation,” said Congressman Engel.  “As a former public school teacher, I am proud to introduce this resolution.  Americans need to know that thousands of children each day go to school deprived of a happy adolescence because of the insensitivity and cruelty shown by some fellow students, teachers, staff and parents.”

According to a 2009 National School Climate Survey: 

  • Nearly 85 percent of LGBTQ students have been verbally harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation;
  • Over 40 percent of LGBTQ students were physically harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation;
  • Over 60 percent of LGBTQ students reported that they felt unsafe in school; and
  • Nearly 30 percent of LGBTQ students reported missing at least one entire school day in the last month because of safety concerns.

“It is tragic to have any child suffer and what makes this worse is that it is completely preventable.  Bullying and harassment of LGBTQ students stems from ignorance and can only be repaired with education.  By helping other students, teachers, staff and parents understand the plight of LGBTQ students, we can help these students live a happier childhood and enable them to earn their education free from fear,” added Congressman Engel.