Kentucky high school students walk out in protest of anti-LGBTQ legislation
Students at Atherton High School in Louisville walked out of class Tuesday in protest of a flurry of anti-LGBTQ bills filed by Republicans in the Kentucky Legislature.
Hundreds of high schoolers spilled onto the lawn during their sixth-period class, chanting, waving pride flags or carrying signs with the words “Say Gay” in bold marker.
Tenth-grader Elliott Kozarovich, who is trans, organized the protest after he heard about House Bill 173 and its companion bill in the state Senate, which would make it difficult to talk about LGBTQ identities in public schools.
“Just the amount of hate towards our communities is really sucky,” Kozarovich said.
He said Atherton High School is “very progressive” in its policies toward LGBTQ students. Back in 2015, amidst public debate about transgender students’ use of school bathrooms, Atherton was among the first schools in the state to pass a policy protecting the right of transgender students to use restrooms that correspond to their gender.
LGBTQ-inclusive policies are gaining momentum in other schools as well, but Kozarovich worries this bill would put a stop to it.
“This bill still endangers our school and our students,” he said, as well as students in schools that are “less progressive.”
House Bill 173 is a 27-page document with a smorgasbord of provisions targeting LGBTQ-inclusive school policies. It would ban schools from allowing transgender students from using bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender. It would require schools to out LGBTQ students to their families, prohibit policies that encourage teachers to use trans and nonbinary students’ correct pronouns, and ban virtually any mention of LGBTQ identities in school settings, especially in elementary and middle school.
Atherton senior Madeleine Van Amburgh is worried that if passed, the measure would make LGBTQ students like her and her brother less welcome and safe in the classroom.
“School’s supposed to be a safe space for you to be who you are and learn,” she said. “And for that to be taken away from the students is disgusting and awful.”
Fourteen-year-old Genesis Yarbrough agrees. Yarbrough, who is lesbian, said she is glad she’s at a school like Atherton, which has a reputation for supporting LGBTQ students.
“You feel more comfortable when you come to school. A lot of people have a corrupt household, so when they come to school they will at least feel supported,” she said.
Yarbrough worries bills moving through the Legislature would change that. And she believes it’s an imposition of conservative Christianity into public schools.
“Just because you’re Christian, the next person might not be … everybody don’t believe what you believe in,” she said.
House Bill 173 and its companion bill in the Senate have yet to be heard in committee. But one measure from Republican Sen. Max Wise, of Campbellsvillle got the greenlight last week from a GOP-led committee. It would prohibit schools from requiring school staff to use students’ “preferred” pronouns, if those pronouns don’t match the gender on their birth certificate.
Wise is the running mate of Republican gubernatorial candidate Kelly Craft, who has made fighting a so-called “woke agenda” a key issue in her campaign.