Carl Walker-Hoover should be celebrating his birthday today
Carl Walker-Hoover should be celebrating his 12th birthday today. Instead his family and friends mourn because Carl took his own life last week in the face of constant bullying. The kids at Carl's school called him gay. They said the football, basketball and soccer playing Boy Scout acted "like a girl." They teased him and threatened him and, according to his mom, little to nothing was done to stop the behavior.
Ironically, today is also when tens of thousands of high school and college students across the world will participate in the Day of Silence. Started in 1996 by students at the University of Virginia, and now officially sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the day asks students to take a vow of silence while at school to draw attention to exactly the kind of harassment that drove Carl, who did not identify as gay, to suicide.
Three years ago, ASCD, GLSEN, whole child partner AASA, BridgeBuilders, the First Amendment Center, and the Christian Educators Association International (CEAI) endorsed a set of dialogue guidelines called Public Schools and Sexual Orientation. Perhaps an unlikely, or at least unanticipated, alliance between CEAI and GLSEN created a process for schools that is there to remind all that this is not an issue of faith or politics, but an issue of safety and support for all. If these guidelines are followed by schools and indeed communities across the world, there will be no need for the Day of Silence.
While student activists are silent today, we urge the adults around them to speak out so that each child in each of our communities is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. Carl should be celebrating today.