Students in Virginia walk out of school to protest anti-trans policies – with Joe Biden’s backing

Students in Virginia walk out of school to protest anti-trans policies – with Joe Biden's backing

Students at almost 100 schools across Virginia have reportedly staged walk-outs in protest of anti-trans policies proposed by governor Glenn Youngkin.

The walk-outs across the state were planned by the Pride Liberation Project, a group of LGBTQ+ students and allies in Virginia, who reported on Twitter that 12,000 students took part in the protests on Tuesday (27 September).

The policies, which the public can still comment on, were proposed on 16 September, and could mean that students could only take part in sports and use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to the sex assigned to them at birth.

Additionally, schools would only recognise name and gender changes once confirmed by an official legal document, and – under the guidance – school staff would not have to call students by their chosen names and pronouns if it “may be contrary to their personal religious beliefs”.

The Virginia Department of Education said the new rules would “reaffirm the rights of parents to determine how their children will be raised and educated”.

‘This is about hurting queer students’

It comes after other states across the United States have attempted to limit trans students’ rights at school, from banning trans students from playing sports to forcing students to use the bathroom corresponding to the sex they were assigned at birth.

The Pride Liberation Project, however, stressed on Twitter that the policies are “not about parental rights – this is about hurting queer students for politics”.

The group said queer students “belong” in the school system, and called for everyone to have “a voice” in young people’s education.

Casey Calabia, a 17-year-old Virginia student who took part in, and helped organise, the walk-outs, told BuzzFeed News: “So often in issues around education, students are excluded from the conversation, especially queer students.

“Getting this opportunity to have people listen to what we have to say, all across Virginia, is really imperative to making sure that we are not excluded from conversations that will quite literally change our day-to-day lives.”

Calabia added that organisers have “had such positive reception”.

“To have this big of a response and this widespread attention is helpful. I’m hopeful that people will listen to us.

“It is so deeply devastating for trans students… I don’t know what these policies are going to mean for the people I love and for myself.”

The White House has spoken in support of the students protesting Youngkin’s proposals, with a spokeswoman explaining that president Joe Biden is “always proud to speak out against the mistreatment of [the LGBTQ+ community]”.

During a press briefing on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said: “He believes transgender youth should be allowed to be able to go to school freely, to be able to express themselves freely, to be able to have the protections that they need to be who they are.”

A spokesperson for Governor Youngkin told BuzzFeed News that proposals which dictate how trans students can use bathrooms, choose their pronouns, and the names they want, also “state that students should be treated with compassion”.

Spokesperson Macaulay Porter said: “Parents should be a part of their children’s lives, and it’s apparent through the public protests and on-camera interviews that those objecting to the guidance already have their parents as part of that conversation.

“While students exercise their free speech today, we’d note that these policies state that students should be treated with compassion and that schools should be free from bullying and harassment.”