Students from dozens of schools throughout Virginia staged a walkout on Tuesday, to protest Republican Governor Glen Youngkin’s anti-transgender education policies.
Earlier this month, Youngkin released a set of guidelines for the Virginia Department of Education aimed at rolling back transgender rights put in place by his Democratic predecessor.
According to WTOP News, the new policies will require students to use bathrooms and other school facilities that “match the sex they were assigned at birth.” The policies will also prevent teachers from using a student’s preferred pronouns or name unless the teacher receives permission from their parents.
Students will also not be able to receive counseling without first getting their parents’ approval.
These policies are an about-face from the 2021 guidelines, which directed school districts to call students by their preferred pronouns and names without asking parents’ permission.
Unsurprisingly the policies received massive push-back from students who took to the streets to show their disapproval. The walkouts on Tuesday, which drew massive crowds, were organized by a student-led group, The Pride Liberation Project.
Student protesters called for the state’s Department of Education to reverse the changes to the 2022 education model, according to WTOP. They are also asking local school boards to reject the new guidelines.
According to WTOP, the protests aligned with a 30-day public comment period, which allows residents of Virginia to voice their opinions publicly on new Department of Education policies before they go into effect.
So far, over 19,000 Virginians have left comments in support and against the new policies.
Felicity Banner, a 15-year-old student who spoke to WTOP, said that they were incredibly concerned for students who don’t feel safe or comfortable coming out to their families.
“Many students have supporting parents, and they can go home to supportive homes, but there’s also students where school is their safe place. And, if we take that away from them, by taking away their privacy, that can really harm them,” Banner told WTOP.
It’s worth noting that none of what is happening in Virginia is happening in a vacuum.
In Texas, families with transgender children are being investigated for child abuse for providing often life-saving gender-affirming care. And Boston’s Children’s Hospital has been receiving bomb threats because they provide care for transgender youth.
It’s hard to argue (although people have) that any of these attacks on transgender children, their families, and support systems do anything to improve the lives of trans youth.
Gender-affirming care and support, like using preferred names and pronouns, have been shown to greatly reduce suicide risks among trans people, according to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey.
Republican Governors like Youngkin in Virginia and Greg Abbot in Texas don’t appear to be correcting course anytime soon. But the fact that students are coming out in droves to say that what’s happening to trans youth in their states is wrong, is certainly worth our attention.