Some 300 students and a majority of teachers at Vancouver’s Templeton Secondary School observed the school’s first-ever Day of Silence Apr 18 to send the message that homophobia is “wrong and unacceptable in all its forms.”
Virginia Berger-Hawthorne, chairperson of Templeton’s gay-straight alliance which organized the event, says it was “hugely successful,” featuring presentations from GAB Youth Services and Out on Screen’s Out in Schools program before the official start of the day’s silent phase.
While students did attend class, they were asked to write rather than verbalize responses if teachers called upon them, says Berger-Hawthorne, adding that a lot of teachers planned in-class essays, or screened movies, so as not to disturb silent students.
“A few conducted their entire lessons in silence,” she says, noting that all teachers were respectful of the silence.
“[Some students] said it was hard, [but] felt like they learned a lot. Something that kept coming up was patience, learning about patience,” says Berger-Hawthorne. “It gave us all a lot of insight into the kind of self-censorship involved in being in the closet. When you’re writing things down, you think twice about what you’re going to say.”
She says Templeton has “come a long way” in terms of its acceptance of queer students; few of the school’s 1,300 students opposed the idea of having a Day of Silence. But comments like “that’s so gay” and other homophobic slurs are still too common, she points out.
“The Day of Silence is to make our school safer and more inclusive of all students,” she concludes. “We want everyone to understand that homophobia is deadly.”