Students Walk Out in Protest

New model policies on gender spark controversy

Student walkouts across the state were organized after Governor Glenn Youngkin released a controversial model policy that is being criticized for its stance on the treatment of LGBTQ+ students.

To protest this model policy, the student-run Pride Liberation Project (PLP) planned student walkouts across the state. Some FCHS students left their classrooms during 8th period at 2:40 on September 27th carrying signs protesting the actions taken by Governor Youngkin. Members of the PLP Laura Trung (11) and Cathy Le (12) helped lead call and response chants.

“Walkouts and civil disobedience are important,” said Brendan Kane (11). “But we need to support our transgender friends and peers every day.”

In 2020 the Virginia legislature passed a law that required model policies to be created by the Virginia Department of Education, in order to create a safer environment for LGBTQ+ students. According to this law, these model policies have to address a few “common issues regarding transgender students,” like maintaining a harassment and discrimination-free school environment and making sure that sensitive student information is kept confidential. 

In 2020 Governor Ralph Northam created a model policy that worked under the law. In 2022, Governor Youngkin created a new model policy that critics suggest doesn’t follow this law. His model includes policies such as: students are required to use the bathroom that applies to their sex at birth, staff can only use the pronouns of a student that appear in the student’s official documents, and schools are required to share with parents if a student wants to go by a different name. 

“It endangers students,” said Vin Watts (10). “If there are parents that aren’t supportive, and teachers out their kids, they could be harmed.” 

FCPS’s Student Rights & Responsibility (SR&R) states that: “Students may exercise the right to freedom of expression through speech, assembly, petition, and other lawful means and have the right to advocate change of any law, policy, or regulation.” Approximately 200 FCHS students expressed their rights to free speech and assembly in a peaceful protest.   

“I think that schools should be a place where everyone is able to feel comfortable and safe, however, his recent changes undermine that,” said Robert Potter (12). “While I wish there was more that we could do, walking out is a way for us to group up and visually show our frustration.” 

Fairfax County School Board member, Karl Frisch, expressed his views on Youngkin’s model policy and how it would affect FCPS schools and protections of transgender students.

“Our protections are the best in Virginia,” said Frisch. “We’re not going to water down our protections to appease our bigoted governor.”