NEWS BRIEF: Students Walk Out For Trans Rights

Students protested on 6th St. after the introduction of anti-trans bills in Kansas

Conrad Hill and Allison Mayhew

Students walked out of schools throughout the district on Tuesday, March 28, to voice their opinions on the introduction of anti-trans bills in Kansas.

“It is more than just a political issue, it’s an issue of ‘Does this group deserve rights?’” sophomore Kara Unckless said. 

On March 17, Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed House Bill 2238, which restricts trans women from participating in girls sports at the high school level. In Kelly’s note vetoing the bill, she expressed concerns about what message the bill sends to transgender youth.

“We all want a fair and safe place for our kids to play and compete,” Kelly said in a message regarding the veto of House Bill 2238. “Here’s what this bill would actually do: harm the mental health of our students.”

Junior Jasper Merritt said that Kansas legislators should aim to have trans inclusivity in their lawmaking and allow trans students to be who they are without fear.

“Mentally, it’s been a challenge,” Merritt said. “It is really affecting my ability to feel comfortable around people.”

The walkout was organized by junior Adriana Cazares, who runs @lawrenceactivism on Instagram. Cazares said that her main goal for the protest was to educate and involve students on the bills occurring in Kansas.

“[Trans] rights should be like anybody else’s rights: being protected, and being valued, because they are human rights, obviously,” Cazares said.

In addition to House Bill 2238, two other bills in the past two months were presented by Kansas lawmakers that further restrict the rights of transgender people. 

The most recent bill presented to Kansas legislators was Senate Bill 255, which would require school districts to provide separate accommodations for students of each biological sex on overnight school-sponsored trips. Cazares said that she thinks the bill is an immoral attack on the trans community.

“I fear the day that the laws become so bad that they won’t be able to express themselves and have to go back to how they were, unhappy and suicidal,” junior Yael Gillath said. 

After hours of protesting, students turn to the Kansas legislature and community for change and acceptance moving forward. 

“The Free State community has a pretty big trans population in comparison to other schools,” senior Sofia Lefort said. “That’s because of the environment that has been created that is more forgiving than others. And I would love to see more widespread acceptance in our schools.”