Editor's Note: See live coverage of Tuesday's protests here.
Students at dozens of schools in Virginia are planning to walk out of school Tuesday in protest of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposed restrictions on the rights of transgender students.
Students at more than 90 schools across the commonwealth are expected to participate in what could be one of the largest organized student walkouts in recent memory. Organizers are expecting thousands of students to participate.
McLean High School student Casey Calabia said students want their opposition to Youngkin’s plan to be heard.
We're making it easier for you to find stories that matter with our new newsletter — The 4Front. Sign up here and get news that is important for you to your inbox.
“There's an understanding that we're sort of being used as a political punching bag for Governor Youngkin through the Virginia Department of Education to just create some sort of uproar, or to mimic the ‘Don't Say Gay’ bill in Florida,” Calabia said.
Youngkin’s proposed policy changes would restrict which pronouns students may use and require teachers to out a student to their parents.
Calabia said LGBTQ students now walk the halls of their schools in fear.
As some conservatives cheer Youngkin’s changes, many students are pushing back.
“The reaction from students across the state has been overwhelming, quite frankly, and overwhelmingly opposed to these new draft regulations,” said Aaryan Rawal of the Pride Liberation Project. “We also had a lot of other schools who wanted to participate but, quite frankly, some students weren't in safe enough positions to do so."
The policy changes aren’t in effect yet; a mandatory 30-day public comment period opened Monday, with people on both sides weighing in.
One supporter said in part, “Don’t influence our kids in schools into this gender ideology.”
Calabria said it’s a misconception that teachers are influencing students’ sexuality or gender identity.
"I had teachers who would actively acknowledge queer history, queer problems and queer existence,” they said. “It was life-changing. That's not what made me queer; that's what made me feel safe and happy to be queer."
An avalanche of public comments on the policy have rolled in, with more than 4,000 comments in about the first 15 hours. It wasn’t clear how comments could influence whether or not the policies will take effect.
Youngkin said the final decision will be made by the Virginia Department of Education once the public comment period closes. Go here if you want to weigh in.