Dozens of Lawrence High School students staged a sit-in at school Monday to demand sanctions against student athletes who mocked transgender people in a group chat that was widely shared.
Members of the school’s Total Equality Alliance organized the protest after administrators did not discipline students who had made disparaging comments using the messaging app GroupMe last week, according to reports.
At least 40 students gathered in the school’s rotunda after issuing a list of demands to the high school’s administrators.
The demands called for suspensions and mandatory LGBTQ education classes for students, including football players, who had written the comments in a senior group chat.
Students also requested the creation of a panel made up of teachers and students to address acts of discrimination in the future.
More students joined the sit-in as the day progressed, and roughly 100 students participated in the sit-in before the end of the school day.
According to The University Daily Kansan, students held signs that read: “I shouldn’t have to be cis to be safe”, “end transphobia at LHS,” and “trans rights = human rights.”
Some students were particularly dismayed that some student athletes who had made comments played in a football game last Friday.
“It wasn’t really a shock to us, but it was alarming,” student organizer Elliot Bradley told The Lawrence Journal-World. “It was really difficult for us to handle, knowing that these are people who represent our school.”
The Journal-World also reported that the comments included calling transgender people mentally ill and messages such as, “if a (slur for transgender person) hits you is it still hitting a woman or no?”
Lawrence Public Schools spokesperson Julie Boyle confirmed to The Star in an email that Lawrence High students held a sit-in in the school’s rotunda on Monday.
Boyle said the protest was peaceful, and school administrators met with organizers to hear their concerns.
“Lawrence High is committed to ensuring a safe and welcoming learning environment for all students and does not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind,” Boyle said. “When the facts about these concerns are gathered, the administration will take action as is appropriate in accordance with Board Policy and the Student Handbook.”
Boyle said students dispersed some time after meeting with administrators. She did not say whether school officials had agreed to any student demands, but said school officials were open to working with students to improve upon a “school environment where all students are valued and respected.”
According to the Lawrence High School student newspaper, students were promised a safe space at school and their panel.