DeKalb County students walk out to protest ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill

On April 1, high school students from across the country participated in a national walkout to oppose the record number of anti-LGBTQ bills proposed by state lawmakers this year.

At DeKalb School of the Arts (DSA) in Avondale Estates, around 30 students rallied in front of the school on Clarendon Avenue to protest Florida’s House Bill 1557, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill recently passed into law that prohibits classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels in public schools. DSA’s walkout was organized by the Gay Straight Alliance, a school club for students who identify as LGBTQ and their allies.

DSA freshman Fletcher, who identifies as a transgender gay man, said they were fighting against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill “because there is absolutely nothing inappropriate about being queer, being gay or a kid having two moms. They should be able to talk about that just like a kid who has a mom and a dad in school and we just want to get those younger kids the right to be themselves in school.”

Parents Peter Wells and Patricia Richmond stood by in support of their children.

Richmond, who is president of the PTSA at DSA said that as a former employee of school libraries, she knew very well that ignoring and not saying words like gay is not going to keep kids from being gay.

“Children as they grow and develop need to see themselves reflected in the adults around them and the literature they read and the lessons they’re being taught, ”Richmond said. “I fully support these children and DeKalb School of the Arts as being a safe haven for queer, transgender and kids of all kinds of different from across DeKalb County. I really think this school is a gem.”

Fourteen-year-old Tea, a junior and president of the DSA Gay Straight Alliance said, ”I didn’t even know so many people were going to come out. I was so scared I thought there was only going to be three of us, but I turned around and all these other people came. It was so amazing I almost cried.”

DSA Latin teacher Sarah Galatioto-Ruff said, “I am so proud of our kids for organizing an event and making it clear that even though this bill doesn’t seem to be threatening Georgia, that they are standing in solidarity with the kids this does affect and making sure that everyone knows that we support and love them. I’m just so proud of them. They are such amazing artistic, creative, beautiful people.”

Republican lawmakers in Georgia introduced legislation modeled after Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill in March, but it failed to get any traction.

This story was provided by WABE content partner Decaturish.