Walking Out For Transgender Rights

Virginia’s governor, Glenn Youngkin, has recently proposed a policy that would impact many students, especially those in the trans and queer community. The bill’s main purpose is said to include parents more in decisions regarding students but it takes away students’ rights to privacy. If a student confides in a teacher, the teacher would be required to tell the parents.  This is extremely dangerous for some LBGTQ+ students because those who are not out already may face being kicked out or abused for their preferences. 

This means no nicknames, no going by your middle name, and no preferred names. The bill will also allow parents to deny their child access to their school counselor. A lot of students require their counselor to help with their mental health, and without that safe space, some students may be at risk of lowering their mental health to an extremely dangerous point.

Many students have felt like the governor’s proposed model to strip trans students of certain freedoms is intolerable. These students would lead walkouts throughout the state to show their opposition. On September 27th, Osbourn had four students do just that. About 250 of our students attended the walkout here. Walkouts aren’t anything new. Throughout American history, people have walked out to influence change. The leaders of the latest walkout shared their thoughts on the issue and their experience organizing the protest.

“My best friend is genderqueer, she goes by she/they, and she inspires me. I do think these walkouts are effective when it comes to the media and publicity,” said senior Summer Taylor.

“No matter what you do, you cannot escape politics. It’ll always affect you, and you should try to change things you feel are unjust. I think walkouts do and can have an effect. In retrospect, the participation seemed very small, but if it spreads to other schools, then it can have a big effect and put pressure on the government officials to hear us out,” said senior India Stephenson. 

These last quotes lead emphasize an important point. A lot of young people now have the sense that their words are weightless like their opinions just air that floats out into space. Historically, older people tend to vote more than people just entering adulthood. While it may feel like your voice is just the slight breeze in the jungle that is politics,  in the long run, all of our voices hold a good amount of weight and can affect policies nationwide.

“People our age don’t need to be into politics but it’s good to step up for ourselves and be aware of our rights, as one day we’ll have to be involved in it,” said junior Elliot Ray.

Our school’s willingness to allow students to stage these sorts of peaceful demonstrations helps plant the seeds of confidence in each student’s own voice. 

“I really appreciate the opportunity the school gives to the students, as a lot of young people don’t feel like their voice is heard. These people are part of the community, and while they can’t change things nationally, they can change things in the school,” said history and psychology teacher, Mr. Kentopp.

“I think some people underestimate how much just showing up can mean to people, even if they don’t have a burning passion for the cause,” he added.

When students graduate high school it’s important they understand and are educated in the political sphere. One vote can change a whole election, and one walkout can lead to bigger and grander things, no matter the size.

There was a very large turnout of students at this walkout at Osbourn. During the walkout, members of the Pride club talked about the bill and how it would affect not only trans youth but everyone in schools across Virginia. They explained how the bill worked and what it would do and asked those attending to help show their support by voting and commenting against the bill. 

With this proposed policy, there is no promise that your information is confidential, even with the teachers and counselors you trust. This is a huge step backward for kids who just want to feel safe being themselves in school. Students are humans too; they deserve to be heard and to have opinions of their own.

At this point, the period of public comment on these proposed model policies has ended. State officials will read the submitted feedback and decide whether any revisions to the model policies are needed. The next step is to allow local school boards to consider the implementation of the model policies locally. Stay tuned for our updates on this story.