Benjamin Franklin High School Students Walk Out to Protest Anti-LGBT Legislation

Hundreds of Benjamin Franklin High School students walk out in protest of anti-lgbtq legislation March 25, 2022. Photo by Jennsen Bentley

Hundreds of Benjamin Franklin High School students walked out in protest against anti-LGBTQ legislation proposed in the 2022 Legislative Session.

The bills students were protesting are:

  • HB837 – Louisiana’s very own “Don’t Say Gay” bill, proposed by Rep. Dodie Horton (R-Bossier). This bill would prohibit any teacher, school employee, presenter, and even potentially students themselves from discussing their LGBTQ families or identities in schools, and would bar any classroom discussion or instruction regarding gender identity in grades kindergarten through eight. A similar bill recently passed in Flordia only barred such discussion through grade three.
  • HB570 – Otherwise known as the “Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act,” proposed by Rep. Michael “Gabe” Firment (R-Pollock). If passed, this bill would prevent healthcare professionals from providing gender-affirming care to transgender minors, or from referring them to other physicians for such care, even if the minor has parental consent to seek treatment. 
  • SB44 – Otherwise known as the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” proposed by Sen. Beth Mizell (R-Franklinton). This bill would ban transgender student-athletes who identify as female from playing on the school sports teams of their preferred gender. Governor Edwards vetoed a similar bill passed by the Legislature in 2021.
A masked student addresses their peers during a student protest against anti-lgbtq legislation March 25, 2022. Photo by Jennsen Bentley

“These bills are filled with contradictions, blatant bias, and ignorance that only works to spread hate and damage the trans and queer communities,” one student speaker said. “The supporters and makers of these bills know exactly what they are doing and exactly what information they are ignoring when they make and support this.”

Several adults joined the students for the protest, including members of the Orleans Parish School Board. Orleans Parish School Board President Olin G. Parker briefly addressed students to inform them that on Thursday evening, OPSB voted to sign a resolution condemning the anti-lgbtq bills. Parker also noted that the New Orleans City Council had also signed a resolution condemning the legislation.

OPSB Vice President JC Wagner-Romero addresses students at a protest outside Benjamin Franklin High School March 25, 2022. Photo by Jennsen Bentley.

“When I dropped out of high school at 16, it was Black trans women who took me in to help me figure myself out,” Orleans Parish School Board President JC Wagner-Romero told students, saying this was the first time he had spoken about it publicly. “It was Black trans women who took me in when I had family members saying that I had something wrong with myself… As the only openly LGBTQ elected official in this city, I will continue to stand beside you, fight with you. Your collective voice will make a difference in this state.” Romero wrapped up his remarks by saying “We say g-g-g-Gay,” and “F*ck Those Bills” as students cheered on loudly.

A masked student holds up a sign proclaiming “Trans Healthcare Is A Right” while listening to speakers at a walkout protest at Benjamin Franklin High School March 25, 2022. Photo by Jennsen Bentley.

“They cannot contain you, they want to contain you,” said Pearl Ricks, Executive Director of the Center for Reproductive Rights, a global human rights organization of lawyers and advocates who work together to ensure reproductive rights are protected as a fundamental human right. “The legislation that you heard about today is meant to control your body, control what you are learning, ban books from out of your schools, close classroom discussion, prevent your teachers from being the best possible educators they can be, and that is something we will not take. You’ve shown us that today,”  Ricks told the students.

There is a second planned protest Friday evening at 4:00pm in front of City Hall.

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