LGBTQ and allied students walked out of West Linn High School in Oregon last Friday to protest homophobic harassment and the presence of a Chick-fil-A food truck at football games.
“Dozens of students” participated, Portland TV station KATU reports. About 25 parents and other family members showed up to support them.
The protesters, including the school’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance, said there have been several incidents of anti-LGBTQ harassment in the classroom and during sports games at the school, located in the town of the same name. They also objected to the Chick-fil-A truck due to the company’s support of antigay organizations.
“Hate crimes and harassment. We’re not going to stand for that anymore and we’re going to make sure school is a safe place for everyone and we’re not going to take it anymore,” Susie Walters, who helped plan the protest, told another TV station, KGW.
A group of counterprotesters mocked the LGBTQ-supportive students, wearing hats with Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan and waving Chick-fil-A bags.
Walters and others said there had been an increase in bullying at the school, with incidents including the vandalism of a transgender student’s car. “I have faced, on school property and in our community, from West Linn students, I’ve faced people yelling slurs at me and calling me names,” Walters told Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Still, the students tried to keep their message positive. “We really did try to make this like a pride event,” Mara Buchanan-Hovland, president of the GSA, told OPB. “We tried to make it a celebration of who we are and saying that we’re going to make this community as amazing as we possibly can, and that we’re going to support LBGTQ students.”
School administrators told KATU they weren’t aware of specific anti-LGBTQ incidents but would address the students’ concerns. They added that because of contractual obligations, the Chick-fil-A truck would be at home football games for the rest of the year, but said the school would be more careful about contracts going forward.
Walters told OPB that administrators had agreed to place Pride flags and safe spaces signs in classrooms, but she and her fellow protesters want additional actions, such as the hiring of a diversity director and the inclusion of LGBTQ history in the curriculum. She’ll take these demands to the state legislature if need be, she said.
Two Oregon lawmakers, Rep. Rachel Prusak and Sen. Rob Wagner, issued a statement of support to the students, OPB reports. “Every student at West Linn High School deserves to feel safe at school and in their community,” Prusak said.