Burley Middle School students protest Youngkin’s Model Policies

Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 4:31 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - On Wednesday, October 5, Burley Middle school students left class to protest for transgender rights in opposition of Governor Youngkin’s model policies on the treatment of transgender students.

During the last week of September, students all around Virginia participated in school walk-outs in protest of Youngkin’s proposed policies.

“I saw the 2022 model policies and they disgusted me,” protest organizer and eighth grader Atlas Ramsburg said.

Youngkin’s proposal says that parents get to declare the pronouns and name that their student will be referred to by schools.

ACPS’ current policy allows students the agency to choose how to identify in classrooms. With Youngkin’s proposal, there are concerns over the potential for students to unwillingly be outed to their parents, as well as over the negative impact it could have on the mental health of students.

“We believe strongly that students have a right to express themselves,” Administrator Russel Carlock said.

Burley student and protest attendee AJ Wright says preferred pronouns should always be used, even if it makes others uncomfortable to respect them.

“They [those in disagreement] shouldn’t have a say in what other people want to do with their life,” student Daniela Cedillo Clore said.

For Vance Zapata, who identifies as trans masculine, all of this is very personal.

“I grew up in a very Christian household with very homophobic family members. They didn’t accept me for who I was, for being nonbinary. They said I wasn’t valid,” Zapata said. “We shouldn’t be ashamed of who we are.”

Ramsburg says these new policies are a matter of life and death, and expressed fears that the already high suicide rates of trans and gender expansive youth could increase further.

If the policies are adopted, restroom and locker room use would also be restricted to a student’s assigned gender from birth unless a parent files paperwork stating otherwise.

The public comment period on the model policies is open from September 26 to October 26.

If you would like to weigh on the decision, here is a link to the public comment forum.

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