(CNSNews.com) - Thousands of students across America are expected to participate in a national Day of Silence on Friday, whereby they will not talk for the day to draw attention to the discrimination they say that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students face across the country.
Conservative and pro-family groups, meanwhile, are encouraging parents to keep their children home on Friday to protest the “sexual indoctrination” they say has taken over the public schools. They have launched the “Day of Silence Walkout.”
Randy Thomasson, president of the conservative group Save California, told CNSNews.com: “The Day of Silence sends the false message to children that homosexuality is good and natural and may be for them. What’s left out is the extreme health dangers of homosexuality and the emotional health dangers of homosexuality.”
“The homosexual activists have decided to take over the government schools for one day with the Day of Silence, and this [walk out] is the counter-protest to say ‘No – that’s unacceptable,’” said Thomasson.
Save California is one of dozens of conservative, pro-family groups advocating a walkout of classrooms on Friday. Some of these groups include the American Family Association, Americans for Truth, Concerned Women for America, the Illinois Family Institute and Faith2Action.
Thomasson said not only does the Day of Silence ruin the academic aspect of a school day, but it also sends a message about homosexuality that could confuse children.
“Parents need to send the message that this is unacceptable, and taking their children out of school is the strongest message they can send,” he said. “School districts need to get the message that promoting these abhorrent sexual lifestyles is something parents will not support.”
The Day of Silence is sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).
It states that the purpose of the event is to bring “attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools. Each year the event has grown, now with hundreds of thousands of students coming together to encourage schools and classmates to address the problem of anti-LGBT behavior.”
Daryl Presgraves, pubic relations manager for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), told CNSNews.com that the day’s events are not meant to change people’s ideology about sexuality but to focus on student safety.
“The basic goal of the Day of Silence is to bring attention to the pervasive problem of anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools,” said Presgraves, whose group serves as the national sponsor for the Day of Silence this year.
“We know that it empowers a lot of students to find a way to bring attention to problems that they see. It allows students to feel like they’re doing something to make their school safer,” Presgraves added.
“It’s all about changing behavior in schools,” said Presgraves. “It’s not about changing beliefs.”
However, Laurie Higgins with the Illinois Family Institute said in a statement that “the implicit purpose” of the Day of Silence “is to undermine the belief that homosexuality is immoral.”
The Day of Silence (DOS) “requires that teachers either create activities around or exempt silent students from any activity that involves speaking,” said Higgins. “DOS participants have a captive audience, many of whom disagree with and are made uncomfortable by the politicization of their classroom.”
The Day of Silence event has grown significantly since its inception at the University of Michigan in 1996. According to www.dayofsilence.org, 150 students took part in the inaugural event 13 years ago.
Last year, students from about 7,500 middle and high schools registered for the event, and Presgraves said a similar number of participants are expected this year.
The event has also made its way to Capitol Hill. Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and 33 co-sponsors introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives on April 1.
The resolution says its purpose is to support “the goals and ideals of the National Day of Silence in bringing attention to anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender name-calling, bullying, and harassment faced by individuals in schools.” It also cites several statistics supporting the claims of its supporters.
According to the resolution, more than 85 percent of LGBT students report being verbally harassed by their peers at school because of their sexuality.
Presgraves said the motives of groups like Save California are largely based on misinformation and misrepresentation of the day’s purpose, which he said is promoting safer schools.
“It’s hard for us to understand how anyone can be against the message of making school safer for all students,” he said. “Bullying and harassment is a serious problem, and anti-LBGT bullying – and harassment is one of the weapons of choice, if you will, for students. That’s all the day is about.”
Opponents of the Day of Silence are encouraging parents to pull their students out of school on Friday and to also consider taking their children out of public schools permanently.
Thomasson said his Save California group set up a Web site called RescueYourChild.org, designed to show parents how to home-school their children and how to afford tuition for private school.
“It’s better to have kids stay home and watch ‘I Love Lucy’ re-runs,” he said. “That would be better for them, because then they would see a real marriage between a man and a woman.”
The Day of Silence resolution is not expected to be voted on when Congress returns from spring recess next week, though Thomasson said he would prefer it if the legislation did eventually make it to a vote.
“I’d almost prefer that it got voted on, because it would expose to people that many in Congress want to turn children into homosexuals,” he said.
In her statement, Higgins said: "While in the public school setting, it is legitimate to teach students that there exist diverse opinions on this issue, it is not legitimate to imply that one of those opinions is preferable to another.
“While it is appropriate to teach students that tolerance requires that society should treat all with civility, it is not appropriate to teach that tolerance requires students to accept the view that homosexual conduct is moral," Higgins added.