This is our school. We learn here, we live here, we create here and we grow here. This school was created for us—the students. Not for our parents.
So why are they always prioritized?
Last year, our principal committed to communicating directly with students. Below is a message Jeffrey Litz sent on Aug. 4, 2021:
“This year, one of my primary goals is to communicate directly with you way more often than I have in the past. After all, this is your school!”
Accurate. Enthusiastic. And yet, this year I received an email forwarded to me by my mother—it was not, at any point, sent to students—wherein Litz described a safety issue at the school.
A video was circulated on Sept. 16 showing a student in a bathroom with what appeared to be a gun. The item was confiscated and the student disciplined.
“Please know that the safety of our students is our number one priority,” Litz sent to parents. “Remind your student that any time they have a safety concern, they should speak to a trusted adult, rather than spreading rumors on social media or texts.”
Criticizing gossip without providing the truth to those directly impacted is irresponsible.
Though the student body was in no danger, we had no way to know we were safe. Or, in fact, if the rumors had any substance in the first place.
And what about students whose parents don’t have access to the internet? Or don’t read their emails? Or assume their children get all the emails parents do—when they don’t? We deserve to know when our lives, as students, as people, as human beings, are in danger. And we deserve to know when they are not.
But this issue is bigger than principal-student annoyances. The prioritization of parents puts student lives at risk, especially queer and trans students.
Governor Glen Youngkin’s new proposed policy would force transgender students to be out to their parents in order to be addressed correctly in school.
A study from the National Library of Medicine found that suicidality among transgender people is highest for transgender youth. Authors Ashley Austin and others report that “interpersonal microaggressions made a unique, statistically significant contribution to lifetime suicide attempts, and emotional neglect by family approached significance.”
Trans people are not safe in a world that prioritizes parental rights over human rights. They just aren’t.
Youngkin’s policy reverts rights to students who are legally adults. But apparently, people below the age of 18 are too young to know who they are. Too young.
But we’re old enough to be ignored, and forced to take our safety into our own hands? Old enough to work multiple jobs and still be expected to ace every class? Old enough to be kicked out of our houses, abused, disowned, because of who we are?
Don’t say we’re too young and then treat us like we’re unbreakable.
Often in my life I have heard adults say younger generations are apathetic, or too concerned with social media to care about real life. Well, here is my act of caring. Here is my act of speaking out. Here is a school full of students fed up with being overlooked. Listen when we say:
This is our school. Our bodies. Our lives.
Leave our parents out of it.