In My Own Words: Day of Silence

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April 18, 2013

By Amber Hatcher

I’ve always been treated differently by other kids at my school. From an early age, I was bullied by other students for being different. In fact, other kids were making fun of me for being a lesbian even before I came out to myself.  Because of the bullying, I feel like I have to be on guard all the time. And it’s hard to pay attention in school when other students are throwing spitballs at me.

Although I have a group of friends who won’t harass me for who I am, the bullying I’ve experienced has really shaped me. When I see other people get bullied, I can’t just stand there and watch. I can’t stand back because I know how it feels when it happens to me.  I want to do something to help the other students.

Sign Amber's pledge: Take a stand for student free speech!

I’ve always been interested in learning about social justice issues, and so when I heard about GLSEN’s Day of Silence, the annual anti-bullying observance in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students, I was inspired to be a part of it. Two girls in my class who had also experienced bullying told me about Day of Silence and even then they said the school administration was keeping kids in the high school from participating.

Last April, as thousands of students across the country prepared to remain silent to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools, I asked for permission from my principal nearly a month before the event and provided information from GLSEN and Lambda Legal that explained the observance and students’ legal right to participate. I did everything by the rules, but the principal repeatedly told me that I could not participate and threatened that there “would be consequences” if I did, even calling my parents and suggesting that they keep me home from school. Lambda Legal even sent a letter to Principal Fusco and Superintendant Cline letting them know that it students have a right to observe GLSEN’s Day of Silence, but they ignored it. Instead, the Principal sent an email to all teachers telling them to send anyone that appeared to be participating in the event to the office. Not too long after I arrived at school wearing a red t-shirt with the message “DOS April 20, 2012: Shhhhh”, I was called to the dean’s office and suspended from school for the day.

Sign Amber's pledge: Take a stand for student free speech!

When they told me that I was suspended I was filled with a mixture of so many emotions. I was really surprised that the school administration had the gall to keep me from participating in Day of Silence even though it was my constitutional right to do so. I was really hurt that they could be so closed-minded. I was really angry, too.

Sign Amber's pledge: Take a stand for student free speech!

Because of Lambda Legal’s work in federal court to make sure that what happened last year doesn’t happen again, I think that this year will be different and that we will be able to participate in this year’s Day of Silence without getting in trouble. My wish for the Day of Silence this year is for my school to help me create an accepting environment for LGBT kids, not single me out for punishment. I want kids not to worry about being shut down. There are many LGBT kids in my school who have been bullied and harassed and who feel unsafe. I just want to stand up for all the kids in my school, gay or straight, who don't feel like they have a voice to stand up for themselves.

I think it may be tense and it may be awkward, but this year’s Day of Silence is going to happen. It will raise awareness and change some students in the school. I have no doubt about it.

Learn more about your right to participate in the Day of Silence here.

Learn more about Lambda Legal's Hatcher v. DeSoto County Board of Education, et al. lawsuit here.

Learn more about the Day of Silence here.