Sit-in protests transphobic comments


Emily Kruse

Students filled the rotunda Monday for a sit-in to support transgender students.

By Macy Landes and Connor Schmaus

For six hours today, more than 100 students filled the rotunda for a sit-in demanding school administrators take action to address transphobic comments made in the senior GroupMe starting the night of Sept. 14.

Students were able to reach some of their goals as the school day ended, including plans for a safe space in the building and the formation of an equity group made up of students, teachers and administrators, which draw from equity clubs at the school, students said.

“It’s really great to see how supported we are right now,” junior Etana Parks said of the large crowd that had gathered.

The protests began during second hour. Earlier in the day, some of those leading the protest had posted copies of some of the transphobic messages around school, calling out specific commenters. The posters were quickly removed although the group continued to call out specific students and athletes during the day.

Organizers told administrators they felt an obligation to speak out.

“I have an obligation to protect them [transgender and nonbinary students],” Jonavan Shepard said.

To prepare for the protest, students sold buttons and passed out ribbons in front of the annex before first hour. Students standing in solidarity also agreed to wear all black.

Assistant principal Mark Preut and athletic director Bill DeWitt met with the students for about an hour and a half and they read the screenshots of the transphobic messages from days prior.

About an hour into the sit-in, the group presented their list of demands, which included what disciplinary actions they believed should be taken against the alleged bullies, and ideas about a panel of teachers and students who would determine punishment for these behaviors in the future. By law, schools can’t share student disciplinary information.

“I personally have felt unsafe [at Lawrence High],” Parks said to administrators.

Around 1 o’clock, USD 497’s equity facilitator Danica Moore arrived to speak with a group of about 10 students.

By sixth hour, the number of students in the rotunda had grown to more than 150. Around this time, the protest was silent.

At 1:45, football coach Dirk Wedd came to the main office to speak with the equity group. Throughout the protest, students said that football players who had made comments should have faced repercussions. Students in the meeting later said Wedd hadn’t had all of the information about what the players had said.

They also said that there was an equity group of administrators and student club presidents in the works with the goal of educating students in their classes and outside of class.

The group of students also suggested coming to Total Equality Alliance club if any other students are interested in learning more about inclusivity.