PLD Students Walk Out in Protest

The walk-out at Dunbar was organized by sophomore Ace Courtad who identifies as nonbinary.

On Feb. 16, the Kentucky Senate voted to pass Senate Bill 150, so on Feb. 24 Lexington students from two high schools–Lafayette and Dunbar–walked out of school in protest.

“We [students] are concerned because the numbers for depression, suicide, anxiety, and other mental health problems are already high in the LGBTQ+ community,” sophomore Ace Courtad said. “This bill will make those numbers go up.”

Courtad said that they hope that they can “change people’s minds who are voting for the bill.” 

They were given permission in advance by acting principal Andrea Tinsley for students to demonstrate peaceably in front of the school for 30 minutes.

“Our largest obstacle was making sure that everyone would be excused for this,” Courtad said, “but the administration was very supportive. I feel that the whole staff is very supportive, especially drama teacher Mrs. Henning.”

The Human Rights Campaign is tracking more than 340 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been introduced in statehouses across the country.

“This bill will directly harm children, and then [legislators] will be wondering why so many kids are struggling,” sophomore Piper Mullin said. “But there’s no working around it; there’s no way to make it nicer–the people who sponsored SB 150 are the reason why children are going to die.”

The sponsors of the bill are all Republicans. They are Max Wise, Gary Boswell, Shelley Funke Frommeyer, Rick Girdler, Stephen Meredith, Robby Mills, John  Schicknel, Brandon Storm, Lindsey Tichenor, Phillip Wheeler, Gex Williams, and Mike Wilson.

During the debate on the floor, Senator Karen Berg (D) said to fellow lawmakers, “Either you believe that trans children do not exist, or you believe that trans children do not deserve to exist.” 

Sen. Berg is the mother of Henry Berg-Brousseau, a transgender employee of the Human Rights Campaign who died by suicide at the end of 2022.

This bill will directly harm children

— Piper Mullin

Courtad said that of particular concern to students is that the bill allows teachers to misgender their pupils.

The law states “The Kentucky Board of Education or Kentucky Department of Education shall not require or recommend policies or procedures for the use of pronouns that do not conform to a student’s biological sex as indicated on the student’s original unedited birth certificate issued at the time of birth.”

Sen. Max Wise (R-Campbellsville) who introduced the bill said that he feels like there can be a “middle ground.” He indicated that teachers who do not wish to misgender or deadname students will not be forced to.

“There is nothing in this bill that does not allow for nicknames, alternative names. If a teacher still has the belief to do so,” he said.

But this means that Kentucky teachers who do not believe that trans students should be called by their preferred pronouns or chosen names will be protected under the law to misgender or deadname their trans students.

Sen. Wise said that the law is meant to protect teachers’ freedom of speech.

“The terms ‘he’ and ‘she’ communicate fixed facts about a person and teachers should not be forced to violate their consciences regarding what they know to be true or not true,” Sen. Wise said.

Senate Majority Communications Director and spokesperson Angela Billings reiterated that SB 150 provides First Amendment protections “for those within the public school system, including our teachers.”

Courtad, however, said they take issue with the irony of protecting a certain set of teachers’ freedoms but not protecting trans kids’ human rights.

This law could also force teachers to disclose LGBTQ+ students’ identities to their parents.

“I don’t think teachers should be put in the position where they have to choose between doing what is right and their jobs,” senior Nedjma Kalliney said.

Freshman Lio Pinson said that his concern is that students could be harmed if they are outed. “Outing” someone is the practice of revealing the sexual or gender identity of a person without their approval, and it can be dangerous for some.

Pinson said he feels that many of his friends who identify as LGBTQ would be kicked out of their homes if they were outed.

“So many students will be abused physically, mentally, emotionally,” he said, “and I believe teachers can help with this by providing support systems, providing a safe place for students,” Pinson said.

Sophomore Piper Mullin said that he feels lucky that his family supported him.

“[My family] let me change my name, get new clothes…the works. Many around me, in my home state, do not share that privilege. They must stay hidden at home and make sure their family does not learn that they are LGBTQ+.”

Courtad said that they worry that passing this law will lead to further deaths in the community. Courtad said that they urge others to look at organizations such as the Trevor Project to find reliable statistics.

I don’t think teachers should be put in the position where they have to choose between doing what is right and their jobs

“According to the Trevor Project,” they said, “45% of our community’s youth have considered suicide. Can you imagine what this would do to us? Forcing us to be outed in unsafe situations? Those numbers will skyrocket.”

Nearly 1 in 5 transgender and nonbinary youth attempted suicide, but Courtad said they have hope that they can still make a difference.

On Feb. 16 Courtad’s parents spoke with Rep. Killian Timoney, a former Dunbar teacher who now represents District 45.

Rep. Timoney was attending a ring ceremony for the Dunbar Varsity soccer team, in which Courtad’s brother was receiving the honor. 

Amber Courtad, Ace Courtad’s mother, said that she was impressed with Rep. Timoney for encouraging students to contact legislators. 

At the event, Rep. Timoney told the students that they should write letters to their representatives.

“Rep. Timoney told this generation to get involved, and I agree with him. This walk-out protest is a good start,” Mrs. Courtad said.

“I’ve always encouraged my kids to fight for a greater good, make a difference, be kind and loving, and not to judge people. I couldn’t be more proud of seeing those qualities in Ace.”

Lawmakers in the House, including Rep. Timoney, will now take up the bill.

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  • Students were given permission to protest in front of the school from 11-11:30 a.m. on Feb. 24.

  • Several students gave speeches about their concerns about Senate Bill 150.

  • Many students showed support by wearing flags representing different LGBTQ identities.

  • More than 100 students were in attendance at the event on Feb. 24 in front of Dunbar.

  • Students who identify as straight made signs to show support and allyship with LGBTQ friends.

  • Freshman Landon Levensen chanted “Support Trans Youth” during the event. The poster “Go Touch some Grass” refers to telling someone to get in touch with reality.

  • Lio Pinson and Piper Mullins helped Courtad organize the event, and gave speeches.

  • Many students wore Pride-related clothing or items that represent the LGBTQ community.

  • Many of the speakers included pleas to lawmakers.

  • Sophomore Ace Courtad organized the walk out at Dunbar. They collaborated with students at Lafayette, the other high school that participated.