UW-Madison community breaks silence on school bullying

April 1, 2011

This April, University of Wisconsin-Madison students will rally with students from across the state to take a stand against the silence that often surrounds bullying in schools and universities.

The Break the Silence, Wisconsin march and rally will take place on Friday, April 15. Participants will meet on Library Mall at 4 p.m. and walk silently down State Street, where speakers and musical performers will ceremonially break the silence on the steps of the Capitol.

Event organizer Robin Matthies, interim director of UW-Madison's LGBT Campus Center, says that Break the Silence, Wisconsin encourages people to join together against bullying in all its forms — specifically, harassment targeting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

"We are bringing together a state," says Matthies, noting that the event is nonpartisan and not focused on a specific piece of legislation. "We're really focusing not on the Day of Silence, but on breaking the silence."

For 15 years, youth participating in the national Day of Silence effort have used silence to protest the actual silencing of LGBT people due to harassment, bias and abuse in schools.

UW-Madison's LGBT Campus Center is working in collaboration with Fair Wisconsin, GSAFE and other UW System campuses to gather statewide advocates and anti-bullying supporters at the Capitol.

To date, the LGBT Campus Center has raised $43,000 to support the event. 14 buses are scheduled to bring students to the event from UW System schools as well as technical and community colleges — from as far away as UW-Superior.

Even if students cannot attend the event, they can still take a stand against bullying by serving as active bystanders, intervening when they witness bias.

"The presence of allies at this event is critical," says Matthies. "It's important for members of multiple communities to show solidarity with this important cause."

More information about participating or donating to Break the Silence can be found here or at the Break the Silence, Wisconsin Facebook event page.

To see a video response to bullying, watch UW-Madison's "Stop the Silence" PSA on YouTube.