OGDEN -- Pizza day at Ben Lomond High School cafeteria today will be quieter than usual.
A group of students will participate in a Day of Silence, an annual, national event created 15 years ago in support of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students who are bullied into silence.
"I heard about it on Facebook, and some people I know planned to participate, but none from my school," said Austin Miller, 16 and a junior at Ben Lomond. "I thought it was really cool, so I went to the website and registered, and we've been planning this ever since."
Participating students will wear red and most will remain silent during lunch period, but some won't speak for the entire school day. Students who are questioned about their voluntary silence will have explanatory cards to hand out. At the school day's end, participants will release red balloons as a symbol of freedom.
"The silence represents the silence that happens when someone is made fun of or harassed," Miller said in an interview earlier this week. "They start being scared and want to hide from everyone else. The red is a symbol of participation, so hopefully people will ask why so many people are wearing red, then they will learn."
Miller, who said he is openly gay, said he has not had many problems since coming to Ben Lomond. He was harassed as a student at Wahlquist Junior High, he said.
"It was horrific at Wahlquist," Miller said. "I wasn't open in junior high, and I wouldn't admit I was gay, and told people I wasn't, and that made it worse. Another student there was openly gay, and I didn't see him have problems.
"I got called a lot of names and was physically harassed a few times, and got my head slammed into a locker. I got pushed around. I should have been honest with who I was, but I wasn't. I went though a lot there."
Miller said he never told anyone about the harassment. He just withdrew, socially and emotionally.
The official day of silence was April 15, but many schedule their silence when it best fits their schedule, said Ryan Schwartz, spokesman for the sponsoring organization, GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, based in Washington, D.C.
"We had 20,000 students register from more than 7,500 schools, nationwide," Schwartz said.
Other Weber, Davis and Cache County junior or high schools from which at least one student sent for a registration packet include Ogden High, Clearfield High, Kaysville Junior High, Viewmont High and South Cache Center.
"And many more people observe the Day of Silence without registering," Schwartz said. "We've also had a lot of universities participate."
Miller said vice principal Peggy Dooling-Baker has expressed support for the plan, and Ben Lomond will dedicate today's school advisory, a Friday gathering on life lessons, to treating all people with respect.
The school does oppose the all-day silence, Miller said, "because it's hard in a learning environment." But of the 15 students on the organizing committee, 13 have pledged to remain silent all day.
"I hope it won't be a big problem," Miller said. "I don't want it to cause a big issue for people. People can stay silent depending on however bad they want to stay silent, or they can talk if they have to."
Either way, the message should get out, loud and clear.
"I want the community to know why we are doing this," Miller said. "Harassment is always a problem, no matter what. If it's not about your sexual orientation, it's about your race or your religion. Religion is a big one here. I just want people to think about how they are treating people who are different from them."