Students Across Virginia Walk Out Of Schools To Protest Governor’s LGBTQ Policy

At least 1,000 Virginia students across the state walked out of class Tuesday morning to protest the governor's reversal of a policy that accommodated transgender students in schools.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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Thousands of Virginia students walked out of school yesterday to protest the education department’s reversal of transgender rights. LGBTQ+ issues are front and center for concerns over public education. While there has been a major push by conservative parental rights groups to restrict policies accommodating these minority students, youth advocates and protestors made their viewpoints on the new policy loud and clear.

The protest, which was organized by a student activist group, Pride Liberation Project, took place early in the morning on Tuesday, September 27th. USA Today reports that at least 1,000 middle and high schoolers were believed to participate. Footage documented and shared across news outlets and social media depicted large crowds gathering outside of schools where Virginia students chanted and waved pride flags.

Most participating students spent about half an hour outside during class hours. At McLean High School in Fairfax County, a Virginia student who helped organize his school’s walkout said that he would rather be in class learning. “But, instead, we have to be here, because they’re trying to take away our rights,” he lamented to NBC reporters. 

Elsewhere across the state, other Virginia students berated the new education policy for reversing transgender rights in the school setting. 16-year-old Andrea-Grace Mukuna from Johh R. Lewis High School in Springfield referred to the reversal as a policy that set the state back in time. “It’d be like telling students, ‘we don’t really care, you’re not really who you believe yourself to be,” she added. 

But what was at the heart of this state-wide school protest? It all centers around the announcement just a few weeks ago that Republican Gov. Glenn Younkin was updating the state’s model education policy. In doing so, he rolled back a plethora of Virginia transgender student’s rights enacted by the governor’s Democratic predecessor. 

Under the last administration, Virginia students who identified as transgender were given extensive rights in school. This allowed them to access restrooms and locker rooms that aligned with their gender identity. It also encouraged teachers to respect their wishes as to how to be addressed according to their preferred pronouns. 

But now, Youngkin’s new policy seeks to take that all away. Going further, it requires students to be identified according to their gender assigned at birth. Likewise, he championed parental rights as the forefront matter in the policy, requiring schools to notify parents of any gender transitions whether Virginia students wish to be ousted or not. 

Yesterday’s walkouts led by Virginia students amassed national attention to the southern state. It even caught the attention of The White House, where Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre briefly discussed the protest. In doing so, she reiterated President Biden’s proactive stance on LGBTQ+ issues in schools, saying that these students should be able to “express themselves freely.” 

Other than making their viewpoints known, many Virginia students who attended the walkouts aren’t just hoping that Americans now understand how important the issue is for them. They also are hopeful that they can stop the new policy before it is made official. As of Monday, the model policy entered a one-month comment period.

Virginia students

Some students were seen handing out brochures with QR codes directing them straight to the site, where they could submit their wishes to ban the new proposal. In just two days, the page has collected nearly 28,000 comments. But whether or not the actions or voices of these Virginia students are enough for the state to reverse the policy, remains unknown.