No matter how disruptive, student walkouts are a core component of youth activism

If you’re a Beacon reader, you probably saw the op-ed published in last month’s edition that claimed all walkouts (including the one for queer and trans rights held here at Jackson-Reed) are performative and pointless.

As trans students at this school and organizers of the walkout that that article discussed, we wanted a chance to respond to the misleading take that protests never work and that there’s no homophobia or transphobia at our school to protest. Thinking that Jackson-Reed or DC doesn’t have any bigotry against queer people is a priviledged opinion to be able to hold. That article was printed right next to one about how our school needs gender-neutral bathrooms to protect the safety and dignity of trans students. 

The article showed a clear lack of understanding regarding the walkout. The walkout took place on March 31st, with schools across the country walking out at the same time on Trans Day of Visibility, a day designated for trans people to have their experiences recognized and for cis people to educate themselves and show solidarity. Queer student organizers put hours of work in to make the walkout meaningful- during the walkout, students shared their lived experiences as trans and queer students, voiced their opposition to the increase in homophobic and transphobic legislation across the country, and most importantly, they showed their pride and shared a sense of community. 

Students weren’t participating to skip class, but rather to stand outside in the pouring rain, locked out of the building to protest against the rise of queerphobia. If students standing soaking wet as the rain washes the ink from their “Protect Trans Kids” sign crying tears of joy because they finally feel supported by people at their school doesn’t show the importance of this walkout, then nothing will.

And yeah, some people skipped school that day, but they’re going to skip whether there’s a protest or not. The First Amendment rights of all students shouldn’t be restricted because it might make it easier for some kids to skip school.

In response to walkouts and protests, adults often say the same thing to students as last month’s op-ed. They claim that they don’t do anything, that there are better, less disruptive ways to make change. You can’t make change without being disruptive. Every social and political movement uses protests as a major part of achieving their goals. Movements like Fridays For Future and March For Our Lives are proof of how group mobilization brings attention to key issues and can cause change. Protests are able to grab and hold people’s attention in ways that calling or emailing a politician just doesn’t. Those calls and emails are a good step, but most of them will get glanced at by an intern and promptly deleted. Is every individual protest going to change the world? No, but it gets people’s attention. It shows politicians, voters, and community members that this is an issue that matters to people in their community, and they should learn and understand it. •