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Iowa City, UI community take part in Day of Silence

BY JONATHAN SOLIS | APRIL 19, 2013 5:00 AM

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School hallways and lunchrooms across the Iowa City area will be a little less noisy today.

Groups such as the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered Allied Union at the University of Iowa, Colors at West High, and Gay, Lesbian Or Whatever at City High will participate in the National Day of Silence, an event sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network.

“The purpose of the Day of Silence is to honor and remember LGBT persons who have taken their lives,” said Liz Ernst, the head of GLBTAU at the UI. “By remaining silent, we are showing our community what it would be like if we, as LGBT people, were not there.”

Earlier this week, GLBTAU lit tea-light candle bags; each one was marked with the name of someone who committed suicide after being bullied. They placed them along the T. Anne Cleary walkway.

Sara Puffer, a member of GLBTAU and a UI student, noted that the event was a somber one.

“Being an out gay person, it’s humbling to see all the people that have been killed because of hate crimes,” she said. “Iowa City is a good niche for gay people, but we’re not exempt.”

Puffer, who has participated in the event since her freshman year of high school, said she expects around 100 or so students to remain silent throughout the day, but noted that it’s harder to for college students to remain silent because they have more responsibilities.

Students at the two high schools will participate in the event, and each group expects around upwards of 100 students to remain silent.

“It’s a pretty big deal here,” said Kerri Barnhouse, the faculty adviser for Colors. “We have a booth at which students can get stickers in support of the Day of Silence. We even have a couple of teachers who do it. They have to plan their days very carefully.”

Officials at the schools say the event is widely supported by students, administrators, and teachers.

However, some students have followed the Day of Silence with their own First Amendment exercise.

“Kids will wear a shirt that says ‘Day of Truth’ the next day,” Barnhouse said. “It usually has a Bible verse on it.”

Some organizations, such as the Illinois Family Institute, have published articles urging parents to keep their children home from school on the Day of Silence.

Maureen Hill, a faculty adviser for GLOW at City High, says she’s not aware of any protest from parents or students that are set to occur in near future.

In order to curb potential issues, GLOW plans ahead by keeping the teachers and students informed about the event, and the teachers are generally fantastic, Hill said.

“At the end of the Day of Silence, we have a ‘breaking the silence’ party,” she said. “It’s such a powerful thing for students to feel like they’re not alone.”


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