(CNSNews.com) - This year's Day of Silence, which homosexuals will observe Wednesday at thousands of schools across the country, is under attack from several conservative groups that want to alert parents about the movement.
Fearing that homosexual students will spread their message in classrooms, some parents have opted to keep their children out of school Wednesday. For the past seven years, students from middle school to college have used the day to take a vow of silence to protest discrimination and harassment.
Last year's Day of Silence was observed by more than 150,000 students at nearly 2,000 schools, according to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). This year, the group expects those numbers to increase to more than 200,000 participants.
The movement has even reached Congress, where Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) introduced a resolution that would recognize the day. Gov. Gray Davis (D-Calif.) plans to issue a proclamation, and several municipalities or legislative bodies are expected to do the same.
Widespread acceptance of the day by school administrators prompted parents to picket outside schools in California and other states last year, said Steve Klein, founder of Courageous Christians United, a group steadfastly opposed to the Day of Silence.
"As we as parents try to get our kids into reading, writing and arithmetic, the more we're finding that they're getting into social engineering," said Klein, who encourages parents to keep their kids home Wednesday. "My kids went through this a few years ago, and I couldn't believe the homosexuality and the filthy sex that they were teaching."
Klein took to the streets last year, when he joined other concerned parents at Granite Hills High School and Santana High School, both in the San Diego area, to distribute pamphlets to students about what he views as the dangers of homosexuality.
This year, Klein is not planning to demonstrate because the students at the schools opted to observe the day earlier this year to avoid controversy, he said.
Kevin Jennings, GLSEN's executive director, could not be reached for comment, but he has praised the Day of Silence ever since his organization began sponsoring it two years ago.
"The overwhelming message that students sent in 2002 through the hallways of their schools resonated for months after, both in classroom discussions and on the editorial pages of countless local newspapers," Jennings said in February, announcing the kickoff of this year's project.
The Day of Silence has a 15-student leadership team that helps organize events across the country. Jennings praised these students for helping combat homophobia and discrimination in places like Detroit, Albany, N.Y., and Madison, Wis., a few of the communities where special events are planned.
As more schools endorse the day and recognize those participating, however, they might be stepping over a line by entering the political arena, warned Scott Lively, president of the Pro-Family Law Center.
Lively's organization sent letters to all California school superintendents that highlighted his concerns. He said that once a school allows a group to present its political agenda during class time, the school is obligated to recognize all other student causes.
"When political demonstrations enter the classroom, with the endorsement of the school, they have crossed the line, and they are essentially taking advantage of a captive audience of students to force a political message upon kids who don't have any choice but to be there," he said. "It's wrong, it's illegal, and schools that allow it to happen are setting themselves up for litigation."
Another conservative organization, Concerned Women for America's Culture and Family Institute, offered parents and students recommendations about countering the Day of Silence.
Peter LaBarbera, the institute's senior policy analyst, advised parents to contact their local schools and ask about any Day of Silence events that might be planned. He also said students shouldn't be afraid to ask participants about their lifestyle.
But despite the outrage from conservatives, Jennings said in a statement released earlier this week that he was optimistic the day would be a success and again increase in popularity.
Lively, however, will spend the day with California students who are skipping school in protest. He plans to meet with them in Sacramento to give them advice about creating their own clubs to get their message out.
"The thing that really galls me about this is that the whole premise of the Day of Silence is that homosexuals have to be silent in our society today because of discrimination," Lively said. "Homosexual activists are the most obnoxious, loud and vocal political activists this country has ever seen."
See Earlier Story:
Schools Could Be Sued for Teaching about Homosexuality, Report Claims (Sept. 6, 2002)
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