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Sit-in protests transphobic comments

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

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

Emily Kruse

Emily Kruse

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

By Macy Landes and Connor Schmaus

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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.

7 Comments
  • Jacob Parnell

    Okay… mind showing the offending messages here? The story says that screenshots of the messages do exist and were posted all over the school, so those might provide some important context regarding the degree of the offense.

    If it was an attack on specific students or someone throwing out slurs left and right, then discipline would probably be appropriate. But if it was someone voicing their opinion (e.g. “I don’t think being trans is natural”), then that’s a whole different story. Demanding people be punished by the school for having the wrong opinions in a GroupMe chat (which I assume was started by students, not by the school, therefore the school shouldn’t really have a say in what goes on there or how it’s run) would be despicable. Especially since the group demanding action are putting these students’ names out there and trying to destroy them socially as well as punish them through the school. Even if the school doesn’t punish them, the damage will have already been done, just for saying the wrong thing.

    Now, I might be overreacting and these students might have said some horrible things, but a bit of context is important here. And it’s not like the Budget has been afraid to post pictures with offensive material before (I was on staff when we posted pictures of the football field vandalism saying “school of n*ggers”).

    [Reply]

    Mark Reply:

    There are rules that prohibit student athletes from behaving in ways that would make the school seem bad. In the GroupMe the thing that kicked this off was bullying against one trans student, which when reported to the administration, not much was done. People in the TEA club GroupMe were going to already talk to see what could be done, but nothing really happened. Over the weekend TEA club organized the sit-in to address the bullying issues, and people who were interested were kept updated. We discussed calling out the offenders over the announcements, but shot the idea down because that would be bullying the bullies. The people who posted pictures of the names should not have done that, and their names should never have been released.

    [Reply]

    Jes Reply:

    If I may ask, is posting the applicable statement(s) in the handbook? I did see reference to that and would be curious to see what it is. It does sound also like modifications/changes may be modified/added
    In your opinion, would designating the entire school as a safe zone (I have no idea what this entails?) Is that realistically a possible.
    Again I ask this out of sheer curiousity, not understanding how designation occurs and if its feasible/possible

    I agree that releasing names of victims or offenders could create a volatile reaction on all sides, again I plead ignorance in all aspects of this in school operations.
    I do hope appropiate actions are taken to prevent or at least try to keep this from happening or at least as best the faculty/principles can resolve this.
    Thank you

    [Reply]

    Jacob Parnell Reply:

    Alright then, that answers my question. I just wanted some more info beyond just “transphobic comments were made” for the reasons I detailed in my original post. It seems like punishment would’ve been appropriate, but the way the organizers attempted to hand the offenders this punishment was not. I would have no problems with a demonstration like this to get the administration’s attention, but the organizers tried to administer justice themselves as well.

    And obviously, I was not condoning posting uncensored screenshots of the offending messages. I was in journalism class long enough to know better (even though two-thirds of it was maintaining this website and the other third was the Connect project (never forget)).

    I’ve just seen so many examples of students trying to smear other students for things they didn’t do or having the wrong opinion in the news that I was concerned this could be happening at my alma mater.

    [Reply]

    Etana Estrella Reply:

    Slurs, harassment, and targeted bullying took place in the GroupMe. Several trans kids were called out, dead named, and misgendered, in a group of over 200 kids. The bullying did leak into the school day, so there could be legitimate consequences on that front. Also, a majority of the offenders are on the LHS football team, and their code of conduct specifically prohibits this kind of behavior.

    As for as the actual messages, I doubt the budget can leak that, but they’re all over social media. As a trans person, there was most definitely extremely offensive content, even directed at individual trans people, that certainly warranted action from the school, and when they didn’t act, that’s when students jumped into action.

    [Reply]

  • Ent

    A truly shameful day for LHS. I had known for many years that the school had succumbed to Marxism, but this has likely sealed the nail in the coffin.

    [Reply]

  • Ent

    “We rolled the dice with the future of this country, and I think it’s going to come up snake eyes.”
    – Pat Buchanan

    [Reply]

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Sit-in protests transphobic comments