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OPINION: Far From Over

The Endless Battle for Social Justice

By Etana Parks and Jonavon Shepard, Guest Editorial

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Inaction is an action in itself.

When several trans students at LHS were targeted, harassed, bullied, deadnamed, misgendered and plain-out disrespected, the lack of action by Lawrence High School’s main administration team struck a stronger chord in many people’s hearts than the actual bullying that took place. Sure, the students made trans students feel, uncomfortable, unsafe and like they have no place at the school, but they thought, at the very least, some action would be taken.

That wasn’t the case, unless “some action” is a half-hearted lecture by their football coach. Their coach claimed we’re all a family and need to treat each other as such, but typically when family members hurl transphobic slurs at trans people, that bond ceases to be.

When you don’t prioritize minority’s safety and concerns, allowing harassment and bullying to prosper in your school, you’re not allowed to be shocked or surprised when they revolt. If it appears like you’re prioritizing your athletic program’s success over the wellbeing of trans students, expect a protest.

What started as a joke, turned into an overnight project. Forty students who had a problem with the admin’s lack of action administration’s own form of action —, gathered in front of the school. These 40 initial students filed into the main office, demanding two of LHS’s principals. The suggestion that we should move our protest into the library was offensive. “This is a protest,” Beaux Sartin’s voice called out. “We’re supposed to make this inconvenient for you.” We headed into the rotunda, where everyone could hear and see us.

Once we, Jonavon and Etana clarified that nearly all of the transphobic people were student athletes, we pulled out the athletic handbook, and we read directly from the Philosophy for the Student Athlete section. “The chance to be a part of our athletic programs is a privilege, not a right…With that in mind, the student-athlete must realize all actions on and off the field is a direct reflection of the entire school community.” What the school was represented as, in that moment, was a discriminatory, bigoted and disrespectful organization.

We continued, reading off the District Policy on Hazing and Bullying. “Discrimination against any individual on the basis of race, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, or physical characteristics is prohibited by district policy.” You can’t sweep this under the rug anymore. This violates direct district policy, and students and staff will no longer ignore it. We can’t.

Hours later, we, Jonavon and Etana, entered for our first meeting with the principals. It was an utter stalemate. Both sides shot down each other’s suggestions on how to end this. We gave them our list of demands.They shot it down. They offered alternatives. We shot them down. The meeting was ended, not going anywhere.

We came out after the meeting and, in what seemed like a flash, there were more than 100 people sitting in solidarity with our cause. Our original number had doubled. The administration and the ones who displayed their bigotry couldn’t stop this anymore. Everyone knew what we were talking about, the message we were sending, the justice we were demanding.

We came into the last meeting, armed with the district equity director and students who played a big part in the protest, such as Inez Robinson, president of Intertribal club; Rollin Love; Graham Edmonds, StuCo president; Grayson Rodriquez,;Noah Stowe; and Elliot Bradley. We met directly with a few principals and the interim superintendent.

We argued over our demands, discussed with the coach what he had done wrong, and came to a final resolution. As we exited, that once small group of people who just wanted justice had turned into a group of nearly 200 people, filling the entire rotunda up. By now, the school day had ended.

We let them know that this was a victory. It wouldn’t be a process that would be remedied immediately, but we’ll continue fighting until it is. The bags under our eyes and the strain in our muscles tell their own story. The stress we carry is akin to Atlas carrying the world, but it’s not a curse. If we help make life at LHS better for trans students and students of all marginalized groups, maybe our bags and strained muscles are our badge of honor.

The fight is never over. There will always be social injustice that we’ll have to combat, but as long as we do fight, whether it’s a win or loss, that’s what’s important. Because, to us, standing idly by while people of marginalized groups aren’t given the justice or treatment they deserve is just as bad as delivering that unequal treatment.

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The School Newspaper of Lawrence High School.
OPINION: Far From Over