Stivers students stage walkout over anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around U.S.

About 200 Stivers School for the Arts students walked out of class Friday morning as part of a statewide protest about bills and laws that restrict the rights of minors who identify as LGBTQ+.

Eighth-grader Phoenix Turner and senior Roxy Rhynard, members of the Stivers Gender Sexuality Alliance, which supports LGBTQ+ students, organized the walkout. Both spoke out against laws like Ohio House bill 454, which would restrict minors from getting identity-affirming surgery and would require school staff to report to parents when a student’s gender identity does not match their gender at birth.

“This walkout means a lot because these bills are going to affect our school and friends and kids all over the country like us, because these bills will ban us from talking about who we are,” Turner said.

Rhynard said he identifies in multiple ways as LGBTQ+, but those labels are now at risk with laws like HB 454 in legislatures across the country.

“These legislations can hold me and my friends and my community in danger,” Rhynard said. “And I know so many of them who don’t want that to happen, and that’s why we’re here fighting back today.”

Rhynard thanked his mom, Jocelyn Rhynard, a Dayton Public Schools Board of Education member who also attended the rally in support of her son.

The walkout was planned in about two weeks, Rhynard said, and had approval from DPS superintendent Elizabeth Lolli.

Rhynard and Turner called on people in the audience to talk to politicians and ask that these bills not be passed, as well as support the people who are openly identifying as other than loving the opposite gender and identifying as the same gender assigned at birth.

Ohio is not the only state that has introduced legislation that would affect LGBTQ+ minors.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a letter to Texas state health agencies requiring that doctors, nurses and teachers must legally report parents who help their child in receiving gender-affirming health care to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed a bill that would block teachers from talking about LGBTQ+ history or people in their classroom.

“We’re trying our best to stop them and show our community that we are here, we are queer and we’re not going away anytime soon,” Rhynard said. “So you might as well get used to us.”

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