Despite a steady downpour of rain, Madison Metropolitan School District faculty, students and administrators rallied outside the district’s administration building downtown today. About two dozen people huddled under tents in the building’s parking lot, while even more attended virtually via a livestream.
The demonstration to support LGBT+ students comes as transgender youths find themselves targeted by Republican legislators across the country.
Just yesterday, Wisconsin’s lawmakers considered public testimony on a pair of bills barring trans students from participating in girls and women’s sports. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, those bills could be before the Republican-controlled legislature for a vote next month.
Earlier this week, Madison’s school board unanimously passed a resolution opposing the legislation. But Amira Pierotti, a leader of Memorial High School’s Gender Equity Association, says that action should have come much sooner.
“We appreciate the school board’s statement in support of trans students in sports, but our district leaders waited too long to respond to the anti-trans bill in the Wisconsin state legislature. We must be proactive in our support of our most vulnerable populations,” Pierotti told the crowd.
So far this year, at least 35 bills barring trans youth’s access to gender-affirming medical care have been introduced in state legislatures across the country. That’s according to the Human Rights Campaign, which tracks legislation targeting LGBT communities.
During today’s rally, Pierotti issued a series of demands on behalf of the district’s LGBT+ advocacy groups.
Those include, among other things, more transparency in a pending lawsuit over the district’s gender identity guidance, engaging in monthly meetings with LGBT+ students and providing resources and affirming support for the district’s LGBT+ youth.
Said Pierotti: “LGBTQ+ identities, history and contributions to society are left out of the curriculum. LGBTQ+ youth are tired of educating their teachers.”
Speaking at today’s rally, MMSD Superintendent Carlton Jenkins affirmed his support for the demands.
“As I continue to think about what life is about, and why we’re really here today, it boils down to a simple thing — human decency,” he said. “And the level of violence that comes just because people are ignorant? We’ve got to do a better job of educating and advocating. As you educate, you advocate.”
The rally, an annual event organized by students across the country, typically carries the title of the “Day of Silence.” This year, Madison’s organizers opted for a name change — and it’s now the “Breaking the Silence” rally.
PHOTO: MMSD Superintendent Carlton Jenkins addresses students and faculty / Jonah Chester