Students protest Legislature’s school policies - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Students protest Legislature’s school policies

October 10th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Students protest Legislature’s school policies
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By Ken Sain
Managing Editor

Students at six Arizona high schools, including two in Chandler, walked out of their classrooms on Sept. 29 to protest what they call anti-gay and anti-trans laws passed earlier this year by the Republican-controlled state Legislature.

The six schools all have chapters of the student-led Support Equality AZ Schools and their leaders urged members and other students to walk out at Chandler High, Hamilton High, Desert Vista in Ahwatukee, South Pointe in Phoenix, Cactus Shadows in Cave Creek and Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy.

An estimated 150-to-200 students appeared to walk out of Chandler High, which was about double what organizers hoped for.

Hamilton High School junior Dawn Shim, one of the organizers, told the Chandler Unified Governing Board a day earlier, “When you allow school [administration] to divulge information about students to their parents, that can be incredibly harmful, especially for LGBTQ students who are in an unsafe environment.”

The laws that the Legislature passed last spring that organizers are calling anti-gay and anti-trans include giving parents the right to inspect any document about their child that is at school. So, if a student confided to a counselor they were questioning their sexual orientation, and that was written down, a parent could demand to see it.

The students also protested laws forcing transgender athletes to compete according to their biological sex and a near ban on gay publications in school libraries.

“It only takes one affirming adult in the lives of an LGBTQ youth to reduce the risk of suicide and I refuse to be a part of taking that away from our students,” Chandler Unified board member Lindsay Love said after voting no on the state-mandated policy changes.

“When LGBTQ youth are outed to parents who are not affirming, they face the threat of violence and are often kicked out of the home and forced into homelessness. LGBTQ youth represent only 8% of the youth population, but make up around 40 to 45% of the homeless population in Maricopa County, placing them at disproportionate risk of being sex trafficked.”

Kanix Gallo, a Chandler High sophomore, helped the lead the walkout at that school and confronted a heckler as she led students to AJ Chandler Park, simply looking at him after he said, “Jesus has a plan for you.”

Kanix said the biggest problem is the restriction on library materials.

“They’re calling all these bills, parental rights bills, and so they don’t sound too harmful,” she said. “But you look into the bill, they do sound a lot more harmful.”

Hayden Nguyen, a senior at Gilbert Classical Academy, is part of the statewide leadership of Support Equality AZ Schools, said, “It’s going to be almost impossible for people to talk to their school counselors in order to, you know, enter the their preferred pronouns and gender … without being outed to their parents.”

The organizers at the Chandler High walkout said they were happy with how many students participated.

“Everyone really came through,” sophomore Oliver Milicoliver. “It really shows the solidarity that a lot of people have in the schools.”

“The more the numbers, the more it shows how much we care,” said sophomore Salem Babington. “And I think that’s really important. And we’re very grateful for all the people coming out here and showing their support for our cause.”

There have been similar walkouts in New York, Virginia and Texas.

“I’m really surprised because we had no idea they were coordinating these things,” Kanix said. “But the bill that is forcing teachers to out trans students is popping up everywhere right now. And all the students around this shows that we all see how bad it is.

“We are actually currently talking to some of those organizations that did walkouts in different states to talk to them and be like, ‘Hey, do you want to coordinate a nationwide walkout?’”

Dawn, the Hamilton High student who helped organize the walkouts, said she’s gotten positive feedback from elected leaders, but little action.

“We met with a lot of legislators,” she said. “And we realized that this treatment option that receiving from our school boards right now is across the line for all of the boards that we see across Arizona and across our state is the lack of action.

“Or even if there is action, they tell us, we’re very brave, and they appreciate what we’re saying,” Dawn added. “But they don’t take positive action. That actually is measurable and has goals. That is what we want to see. And the reason why we’re walking out is to tell other organizers across Arizona, as well as our legislators, that we’re here, we know what’s going on, and we’re going to do something.”