With FCPS facing lawsuit, students to rally tonight in support of pro-LGBTQ policies

Students hold trans rights and LGBTQ Pride flag signs at a rally in 2023 (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Students are getting organized in response to a lawsuit challenging Fairfax County Public Schools for its LGBTQ-inclusive policies.

The Pride Liberation Project, a student-run group that advocates for LGBTQ+ rights in Virginia, will host a rally “against anti-trans hate” outside Luther Jackson Middle School in Merrifield at 6 p.m. today (Thursday). The demonstration will precede the Fairfax County School Board’s meeting, which starts at 7 p.m.

“I’m really hoping that Fairfax County and our school board will stop this attempt to hurt and degrade my fellow students,” Laura Troung, a senior at Falls Church High School, said. “LGBTQIA+ students are already disproportionately facing the youth mental health crisis in addition to bullying and harassment at schools and this is just adding salt into the wound.”

Represented by America First Legal, a right-wing legal group led by former Donald Trump advisor Stephen Miller, an unnamed high school student sued the school board on March 4 over its policies dictating that students be treated in accordance with their gender identity.

In her complaint, the student says being “compelled” to address classmates by the name and pronoun that matches their gender identity violates her religious beliefs as a Roman Catholic. She also argues that the policies discriminate on the basis of sex because of her discomfort with using the same bathroom as transgender girls.

Students with the Pride Liberation Project, however, describe FCPS’ regulation 2603 as critical to creating a safe, welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ individuals.

Transgender youth whose peers affirmed their identities, including by using their correct names and pronouns, reported significant reductions in symptoms of severe depression, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts in a 2018 study conducted by University of Texas at Austin researchers.

In contrast, reported school-based hate crimes targeting LGBTQ people have soared since 2015, particularly in states with laws that restrict the rights of transgender students or prohibit education on gender and sexuality, according to the Washington Post.

The Virginia Department of Education’s model policies directing schools to treat students based on their “biological sex” spurred protests and school walkouts across the state in September 2022, including ones organized by the Pride Liberation Project.

Students also rallied outside Luther Jackson Middle School last year after FCPS pledged not to adopt the state policies.

“The fact that so many of my friends and teachers respect my pronouns and my name is life-saving to me,” Moth DiNizzo, a McLean High School junior, said. “I know that they care about me and trust my own self-perception. It’s wonderful and I want everyone to experience that same joy of being known and trusted.”

The planned rally comes shortly after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors designated March 31 as Transgender Visibility Day. The International Transgender Day for Visibility was created in 2009 to celebrate the lives and achievements of the transgender community.

At its meeting on Tuesday (March 19), the board approved the proclamation 9-0 with Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity, the board’s only Republican member, away from the table.

Supervisors said the designation is an important acknowledgement of the county’s diversity and their commitment as elected officials to support all residents.

“We have an obligation to do everything we can not just to protect [the LGBTQ+ community], but to use our voices to stand up and support them and to make sure that the rest of our community sees that that’s what their government is doing,” Chairman Jeff McKay said. “Regardless of what’s happening in Richmond, we will always stand up and fight to protect every single person in this county.”

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