Students walk out to protest Wise’s anti-trans bill Skip to content

Students walk out to protest Wise’s anti-trans bill

Pretty much the entire student body at The Brown School left the building to stand with their trans classmates.

7 min read

Senator Max Wise, running mate of gubernatorial candidate Kelly Craft, is pushing his anti-trans bill, SB 150, in the state senate. He is doing it to score political points with voters, and to further the Republican anti-LGBTQ agenda.

The students at The Brown School aren’t having it.

They walked out of the school en masse this morning, walking down 1st Street in Louisville while chanting and carrying signs, then gathering in Peace Park across the street to rally against the bill. Student speaker after student speaker denounced the bill and the effort by lawmakers to put hate and bigotry into state law.

Students leaving The Brown School in a walkout to protest the anti-trans bills in the General Assembly. (photo by Bruce Maples)
Students walked down 1st Street, then crossed Muhammad Ali and came back up the other side to rally at the Peace Park across from the school. (photo by Bruce Maples)

The bill says that if a student confides in a teacher or counselor about their sexuality, the teacher or counselor must tell the student’s parents, and may not keep the information confidential. In addition, no school or school system may require that teachers address students by the student’s preferred pronouns. And, the state Board of Education and the state Department of Education cannot even recommend that teachers use a student’s preferred pronouns. The bill also goes into detail about sexuality instruction in the schools, and a parent’s right to examine the content and to pull their child out of class as a result.

SB 150 is one of a flood of anti-LGBTQ bills in this year’s legislative session in Kentucky and across the country. In Kentucky, there have already been seven such bills filed. The ACLU says that over 300 such bills have been filed in the United States just this year.

And also in Kentucky and across the nation, students are protesting these bills. Students at Atherton High School in Louisville walked out on February 14. In Arizona, students placed 180 body bags on the sidewalk across from the state capitol, to let lawmakers know that “every single step they take, bill they vote on, there is a life on the line.” And in Virginia, over 12,000 students joined a statewide walkout last fall to protest Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s anti-trans policies.

The walkout at The Brown School was organized and peaceful. But the students are not at all calm about the issue. They are hurt and angry, both for themselves and for their friends. And they aren’t going to be silent.

Interview with Ian Diakov

One such student is Ian Diakov, a twelfth-grader at Brown. Three media outlets (KET, the Courier Journal, and Forward Kentucky) were able to interview her after the rally.

So, why are you here?
I’m here because I’ve known I’ve been trans for about a year now. I haven’t chosen a new name or anything, but I’ve gone by she/her pronouns. And while I’m not out to a ton of my teachers or peers here at Brown, I know I find a lot of comfort in knowing that I have that experience, and I have that safe space to go to.

And it’s incredibly angering to see the majority of senators in Frankfort, and representatives in Frankfort, take so much of a stance pushing hate at our schools – trying to push policy that really has no benefit to them and has no benefit here and at JCPS. Especially as my experience – I’ve had to live with kind of the denial of who I am for so long, and I don’t want students who might be going through the same things that I’ve been going through, to have to just sit there and endure in silence, because they won’t feel like they have that space in schools.

Schools should be, like I said earlier in my speech, a space for education and not discrimination. Students should be able to focus on all of their learning, instead of focusing on whether or not their teacher might out them to parents who might not support them. I think it’s vile that so many people want to take a stance that would support that. And at the end of the day, respect is a two-way street. The respect that I have for my teachers, and knowing that they respect who I am, makes my learning experience here at Brown so much better.

I know I have that space. I have the upmost respect for all of the teachers and and staff here, and students that accept me for who I am. Because of that respect for me, I respect them tenfold. So it really means a lot that I can have such a safe space here. And, it means a lot in the sense that they’re trying to take that away, because I don’t want them to. It makes me want to fight.

If you could have a conversation with folks in Frankfort right now, what would you say to them?
I think the biggest question is always why? Even just in the legislative sense, it’s “why do you spend so much time and publicity focusing on something so — in my eyes — bigoted, something so inconsequential to keep?” Because the whole reason this bill was started is because, not a requirement, but a recommendation from the Department of Education that teachers use the correct pronouns with their students. Not even a requirement!

And so the fact that they saw a recommendation and it offended them so much, that they said “We need to stop teachers from respecting the pronouns of their students altogether,” is so unbelievable to me. And even from a non-legislative perspective, there is no reason to be spreading a platform of hate. And no reason to be spreading a platform that so widely would support disrespect for so many of the students here in the commonwealth. So that’s why the biggest question for me would just be Why. Why spend so much time focusing on this; why even do it in the first place?

If this does actually become a law in Kentucky, and you see it affecting you, what do you as an individual see happening with your situation?
I can’t really speak for how it would affect me too much personally, because I’ll be graduated here in a few months. But flashback a few years, and I don’t know what I’d be doing with myself. I really kind of came to terms with who I was over the pandemic for the first time, and if I didn’t have — I’ve been very scared to come out to my parents for a long time, and it’s not because I don’t think they would support me; it’s more like a personal anxiety. And if that anxiety had extended outside of the home and into school too, I might be ten years down the line and still denying who I am – and that’s a scary thing to think about.

I realize that it’s very hard as a senior in high school to say something about your future, but assuming that this bill and other bills like it actually pass, will you stay in Kentucky or will you be thinking about going somewhere else?
All my schools, maybe spare one, are either in Kentucky or very close. My two biggest choices right now are probably the University of Kentucky or Cincinnati, so I’m going to stay close to Kentucky, probably no matter where I go. If I need to come back and I need to fight to stop bills like these, I will, without hesitation. Because it’s not right, what they’re doing.

You’ve had a very public platform right here. How would you encourage other people who feel like you who might not be able to get up and speak like this and express their opinions on this bill?
It’s always easier said than done, but just take that leap of faith. If you have people that will stand behind you and support you, that is going to make a world of difference when you get up and speak.

I was sitting at home last night and I was trying to write out nice little paragraphs of what I was gonna write, but eventually I couldn’t. Because when you have something that you’re so passionate about, you just have to trust that it’s gonna come naturally. You just have to trust that people are going to have your back, and that you’ll know what to say in the moment. I mean, you can have your bullet points and you can have that, but just go for it. You just need to take that leap.

And when you feel passionately about something, don’t stand on the sidelines. Because if I’d waited a month from now, that bill might have passed, and my opportunity, that window of opportunity would’ve been gone. And, I don’t know what I would’ve done with myself if I hadn’t done anything to speak on it. So, you just gotta take that leap. You gotta take the opportunities when you have them, and that’s very important to me.


Print Friendly and PDF

Bruce Maples

Bruce Maples has been involved in politics and activism since 2004, when he became active in the Kerry Kentucky movement. (Read the rest of his bio on the Bruce Maples Bio page in the bottom nav bar.)

Twitter Facebook Website Louisville, KY