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Orange County Students Protest Anti-Gay Bullying With The Day Of Silence

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ORANGE COUNTY (CBS) — Hundreds of students across Orange County participated in The Day of Silence, a national, student-led event to bring attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools on Friday.

Sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), participants agreed not to speak on campus for the entire day, unless they were called upon by a teacher.   This is the 15th year of the event which was first organized by students at the University of Virginia in 1996.

“We are deliberately being silent for the people that were forced to be silent because of prejudice and anti-gay bullying and intolerance,” said Kasey Debord of Capistrano Valley High School in Mission Viejo.

More than 20 students participated, a decision they made in response last year’s slew of teen suicides linked to gay bullying.  Much of the debate is currently focused around what role schools should play in protecting students.

Meanwhile, a California-based, pro-family group, Save California.com, encouraged parents statewide to protest the demonstration by keeping their kids home from school Friday.

In a statement from President Randy Thomasson, the group says that the Day of Silence is gratuitous “in-your-face sexual indoctrination” and that school administrators are implicitly condoning behaviors that “disrupt the school day for politically correct sexual propaganda.”

However, an official from the county Department of Education urged parents to let their children come to school, saying that Orange County school administrators were trained to handle events like the Day of Silence in a sensitive and appropriate manner.  In fact,  no Orange County schools have reported problems in past years.

“It was a little bit different,” said science teacher Susan Phelps.  Phelps said there no problems just class discussions.  “But we are incredibly fortunate.  We have a very supportive administrative staff.”

According to a survey by GLSEN, three out of five LGBT youths report feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.  In fact, one in three has missed school in the past month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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