Students Protest Against New Gender Policies

Will Hagaman, Editor in Chief

In the beginning this was about a safety issue, not only just for me, but for my friends. And for the kids that are in SAGE, because I know a lot of them are not out. And they tell their parents when they’re coming, ‘I’m going to gardening club.’ And I know if this becomes a thing unintentional outing will happen to students, and their safety could be jeopardized.” 

Anika “Blu” Abogunrin (‘24)

As part of a state-wide walkout against the newest gender policies within the Virginia school system on Tuesday before school. With over 30 students, teachers, and administrators met outside in the senior courtyard. The Sexuality and Gender Equality club (SAGE) leaders spoke, as they sat in the center of the gathering student and staff body.

Originally, student protests across Virginia schools were aimed to be walkouts throughout the day to draw attention to the newest policies that have been passed down by the Youngkin administration. Instead, permission was granted to the students by the administration to have a protest in the senior courtyard for 25 minutes before school, as to not disrupt the school with a walkout, or potentially endanger those who would have attended the walkout.

The walkouts were in some schools run by the Pride Liberation Project, a LGBTQ advocacy group, but local students had to delegate and form their own protests at their own schools. At Forge, SAGE organized the student protest.

“It means fighting for equality, and fighting for the rights that kids like me don’t have,” SAGE president, Reagan “Alex” Marrs (‘23), said.

SAGE had allotted a 25-minute interval before school to protest, officially starting at 7:00 a.m. and ending at 7:25 a.m. Although protesting a serious issue, the protest remained jovial and light-hearted, and gave students, staff, and administrators a safe place to express themselves and their worries about the newest policies.

“Find everyone that can be loud, and be loud, because that’s what we need,” attendee Wren Snow (‘23) said.

The turnout was diverse, with some students having a special connection to the newest policies, and with others unaffected directly, but still worried about their friends and classmates. Administrators and staff of all types attended the protest as well, teachers, a counselor, and even principal Mr. Daniel.

As the protest drew to a close, and the school day loomed, the SAGE leadership took back the microphone from a fellow SAGE member to issue some parting words to the gathered students. And with a grateful and emotional tone, Reagan “Alex” Marrs (‘23) thanked everybody for the turnout, and stated that he never imagined such a turnout, as SAGE has few members. With that final sentiment, the crowd burst into applause and cheers, as their message had been heard by many, and will be heard by many more.

“I think the most [people] we’ve ever had at club meetings is like, five, so I was very surprised. I was absolutely amazed, and it just took my breath away,” Anika “Blu” Abogunrin (‘24), the SAGE vice president, said.

The protest gradually dispersed, and protestors for student rights turned back into students, ready for their educational day to start. The SAGE leadership remained in the blistering cold to converse with peers, friends, and fellow advocates.

When asked about what his views on parents being put first before students in the new policies, Reagan “Alex” Marrs (‘23) stated, “Ultimately, it’s not the parent’s decision. They want us to be grown up so bad, but the first second we start acting like it, they get offended. So either they choose for us to be grown-ups and make decisions on our own, or they get stuck with a 12-year-old mentality for an 18-year-old.”