- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 29, 2007

A coalition of conservative families is urging parents to have their children skip a day of classes at schools that participate in “Day of Silence” to support homosexual students next month.

“If this is going to be allowed in your school … and you do not believe in homosexuality or promoting that or teaching that to children, simply take your kids out for the day,” said Stephen Bennett, who is leading the coalition, called NotOurKids.com.

The “Day of Silence” — started by students and in its 11th year — is supported by the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) as a way to protest bullying and harassment of students based on their sexual orientation.

Participating students, and sometimes teachers, take a vow of silence for the day and distribute or wear cards with information about the problem. Last year, at least 4,000 middle and high schools participated in the event. Colleges participated too.

The event — which falls this year on April 18 — has stirred opposition in the past, but this is the first year critics are actively encouraging a school-day boycott. Supporters of the day say its meaning has been twisted.

“This is an idea that originated by young people and is driven by young people. … From the start it was intended as a way to educate people about the need to reduce bullying,” said Kevin Jennings, founder and executive director of GLSEN.

He said opponents are choosing to “distort or politicize” it.

Mr. Bennett and his coalition contend the day is not about preventing bullying — which they agree is wrong — but rather, part of a broader effort to push students to accept homosexuality, even if it conflicts with their family’s beliefs.

“They’re taking a behavior-based lifestyle and basically forcing it on everyone,” said Mr. Bennett, who identified himself as homosexual for 11 years before becoming a Christian activist against homosexuality.

According to a GLSEN survey, 84 percent of homosexual, bisexual or transgender students report being verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation, and 39 percent report physical harassment.

David Sams, an 11th-grade student from Troy Athens High School in Michigan, will remain silent for the day and said that is “not bothering anyone.”

“You’re just … standing up for something,” he said.

Still, emotions run high and Alliance Defense Fund lawyers contend that Christian students across the country are being actively stopped from presenting their own views on homosexuality.

A Naperville, Ill., high school student last year who was prevented from wearing a T-shirt that read, “Be Happy, Not Gay,” said ADF lawyers recently filed a lawsuit on her behalf.

“It’s one side that’s being shut down,” said Mike Johnson, senior counsel at ADF.

Three years ago, ADF founded the “Day of Truth” to allow students who think homosexuality is wrong to express their views. They felt it was needed to answer the Day of Silence, which Mr. Johnson said is “a lot more aggressive of an event than they let on.”

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