Thousands of Virginia students participate in walkouts to protest transgender policy proposal

Students from nearly 100 schools in Virginia, including Richmond, were part of the statewide walkouts
Hundreds of students in Richmond and the surrounding areas made their voices heard to oppose the draft policy.
Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 7:17 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Outside Open High School in Richmond on Tuesday afternoon, dozens of students held posters. They voiced their opposition to Governor Glenn Youngkin’s new policy proposal for transgender students.

Dozens of students outside Open High School voiced their opposition to Gov. Glenn Youngkin's...
Dozens of students outside Open High School voiced their opposition to Gov. Glenn Youngkin's proposal for transgender students.(Source;NBC12 | NBC12)

One by one, students took the microphone to share their stories and support for transgender students as part of the walkout.

“We are real kids with real lives,” said Skylar, a transgender student at Open High School.

Skylar joined thousands of students across Virginia who walked out of school to protest the draft model policy, which can only recognize a transgender student’s gender if their parent has requested it in writing. Otherwise, teachers cannot refer to students by different names or pronouns.

Skylar and Felix Hedburg speak to students in front of Open High School.
Skylar and Felix Hedburg speak to students in front of Open High School.(Source;NBC12 | NBC12)

Within the 20-page document, the policy also says that a parent must know if a child sees a counselor for gender-related issues. A student’s identity also cannot be changed on school records without a legal document from parents.

Skylar believes these policies will cause more harm for transgender students.

“At the end of the day, these policies put children in danger,” said Skylar. “Like, we need to be caring about our students and the general welfare and health of our students.”

Pride Liberation Project, a nonprofit coalition of LGBTQIA+ students, helped organize the walkouts in response to the release of Youngkin’s draft policy.

During the walkout, Felix Hedberg, a volunteer with Pride Liberation Project and Skylar’s best friend, also spoke out about her opposition to the proposal.

“I’m just really worried for students in Virginia and how that will affect their lives,” said Hedberg.

Walkouts were also held in schools within the surrounding area of Richmond. NBC12 also went down to Appomattox Regional Governor’s School, where a student lead told NBC12 they had a day of silence and silent lunch instead of a walkout.

Students hold a walkout at Maggie Walker Governor's School in response to Governor Glenn...
Students hold a walkout at Maggie Walker Governor's School in response to Governor Glenn Youngkin's policy proposal for transgender students.(Source; Owen McDonald | Owen McDonald)

The walkouts come as nearly 21,000 comments as part of the proposal’s 30-day online public comment period. The comments include those who support and oppose the proposal.

Todd Gathje, director of government relations for the Family Foundation, believes this policy reaffirms parental rights.

Todd Gathje with the Family Foundation believes Gov. Glenn Youngkin's proposal for transgender...
Todd Gathje with the Family Foundation believes Gov. Glenn Youngkin's proposal for transgender students reaffirms the rights of parents.(Source;NBC12 | NBC12)

“These policies, as I mention, strengthen the bonds between the parents and the children,” said Gathje. “They make sure that they’re involved in the process, and they make sure that they’re not creating, as the old policies did, a wedge between parents and their children.”

Gathje believes this is another stepping stone for parents to have a role in decisions involving their children.

“A parent needs to have a direct line of communication with their child to help them, guide them through life,” he told NBC12.

However, Skylar disagrees and says she will continue to fight for the rights of transgender students.

“Students are separate from their parents,” she said. “Trans kids deserve equal rights and treatment and like trans kids deserve the support.”

Dozens of students participated in walkouts across Virginia to oppose a new transgender policy...
Dozens of students participated in walkouts across Virginia to oppose a new transgender policy proposal.(Source;NBC12 | NBC12)

In a statement to NBC12, a spokesperson for Gov. Glenn Youngkin provided the following response to the walkouts:

“The guidelines make it clear that when parents are part of the process, schools will accommodate the requests of children and their families. 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 schools should be free from bullying and harassment.”