Over 8 000 schools in the United States observed a National Day of Silence on Friday to bring attention to LGBT bullying and harassment. Students participate by remaining silent for the entire school day, unless they are asked to participate in class.

This event was conceived by University of Virginia students in 1996, and in 1997 it became a national event, with middle schools, high schools and colleges taking part annually. Friday also marked the 12th Birthday of Massachusetts’s student Carl Walker-Hoover, who took his life last week because of constant harassment by his fellow students.

Many students on the day handed out speaking cards reading: “Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence (DOS), a national youth movement bringing attention to the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies.

“My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by anti-LGBT bullying, name-calling and harassment. I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward building awareness and making a commitment to address these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today.”

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network conducted a 2007 study which found that nearly nine out of 10 LGBT youth reported being verbally harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation, nearly half reported being physically harassed and about a quarter reported being physically assaulted.

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