Gardner Edgerton students walked out of school Friday, September 16 at 1:45 p.m. to protest the USD 231’s proposed bathroom policies that were heavily discussed at the Monday, September 12 board meeting. The rain didn’t stop them from marching to Gardner City Hall to voice their concerns. A few parents marched and drove with the students to show their support. Photos by Lynne Hermansen
Gardner Edgerton school board members held a six hour board meeting Monday, September 12 that mainly focused on a proposed policy for bathroom and locker usage in the district’s buildings that would mainly effect students who consider themselves transgender and do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.
The policy was originally proposed by board member Jeff Miller in July requesting that people “assigned as male at birth use male restrooms and locker rooms and females use female restrooms and female locker rooms.”
Board members discussed at the Monday meeting sending out a survey to teachers and administrators for feedback on the policy. All members, excluding board member Katie Williams, said they did not support surveying students about the policy.
On Friday, 40 to 50 students walked out of Gardner Edgerton High School at 1:45 p.m. and marched to Gardner City Hall with the support of a few parents to protest.
Security told KMBC 9 News, who had a cameraman in front of the shcool and helicopter flying over the school, that administration had requested the media to leave the premises.
Students, parents and supporters held signs, waved rainbow flags and pink and blue flags and chanted, “Hey, hey, ho, ho transphobia has got to go,” “Not a student no say” , “hey, hey, ho, ho Jeff Miller has got to go,” repeatedly.
Students said they were marching in support of their transgender friends and classmates, many who are still private and haven’t come out to their parents and peers, who they felt would be discriminated against if the proposed policy is adopted by the board.
Elizabeth Fiedler, Senior and President of the Young Activist for Change, organized the protest and said what the school board is doing is unacceptable and they were putting students at immediate risk.
“They don’t seem to have a care about it at all,”she said. “We are the student body and stand firmly against this policy. We will continue to make it known.”
Fiedler said Superintendent Dr. Brian Huff outright lied about the policy to the Gay Student Alliance.
“The district officials not only thing is ignorance and being uninformed about this policy, but they’re also gullible enough to believe their lies. We are informed and we will make it known.”
Larissa Briscoe, GEHS student and Vice President of the Young Activist for Change, said She felt the school board is putting trans students lives in danger by their proposed policy.
“The school board haven’t been listening to the student voice at the board meeting so we’re going to make them listen to us,”she said. “We don’t want trans students dead. We want them here with us.”
Briscoe said they weren’t ignorant and were fully aware of all the actions the board had been discussing.
“We might be students, but we know what’s happening,”she said. “We’re not little kids. We’re young adults.”
School board members, except for board member Williams, said at the Monday meeting they supported the policy which also requests for staff to notify parents if their transgender student asks to go by a preferred name or pronouns. Students, staff and the community have raised concerns about how the practice could “out” LGBTQ students to their families against their consent.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas has sent letters to the board with warnings that the policy would violate federal law and isolate and harm transgender students. A representative addressed the board at Monday’s meeting.
A decision on when the vote will be made hasn’t been announced, but the discussion will continue at the October 10 school board meeting.