September 23, 2021 – AUSTIN, TEXAS – Equality Texas, the largest statewide organization solely dedicated to securing full equality for LGBTQ+ Texans, today released a statement on MacArthur High School students’ courageous walkout in protest of teachers being forced to take down “safe space” stickers on their classroom doors.
“A safe space sticker is a symbol that lets LGBTQ+ young people know that they have supportive adult allies at school who they can turn to should they ever need support. School administrators and educators have made a commitment to keep all students safe, not just some. Removing symbols that help LGBTQ+ students feel affirmed and seen sends a dangerous message to LGBTQ+ kids and their peers — and promotes a hostile school climate. Research is clear, 94% of Texan LGBTQ+ students hear anti-LGBTQ+ remarks from other students in Texas Schools. School-based supports such as school personnel who are supportive of LGBTQ+ students, GSAs, and LGBTQ-inclusive curricular resources can positively affect school climate for LGBTQ+ students. Actively limiting these supports can have detrimental effects on the mental health of youth.”
2021 is the worst year for LGBTQ+ state legislative attacks across the country and in Texas, as an unprecedented number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills, especially bills targeting transgender children, were filed — 76 in total. These bills represent a cruel effort to further stigmatize and discriminate against LGBTQ+ youth.
The debate about the humanity of LGBTQ+ people at the state legislature, especially the fear mongering about the lives of trans people has fueled a culture of bias and discrimination that is now trickling down into our schools. The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ+ Youth Mental Health found that 94% of LGBTQ+ youth reported that recent politics negatively impacted their mental health. Since the nationally coordinated attacks on transgender youth by state legislatures began, Equality Texas has seen a marked increase of bullying and violence against transgender youth and discriminatory disciplining of teachers. For example, Boerne ISD requested the resignation of a nonbinary teacher because of complaints that stem from their gender identity and use of Mx nonbinary honorific, a Wichita Falls High school administrator publicly misgendered and dead-named a trans student in the cafeteria in front of the student body, and a pansexual freshman in Royse City and her group of friends were approached at lunch by a fellow student who read anti-gay scripture to them and proceeded to spray them with “holy water” in an effort to make them feel their sexualities and gender identities were disgraceful. The removal of safe space stickers from MacArthur High School is just the most recent example of many impacting LGBTQ+ young people.
In the last year alone, Trevor’s crisis counselors have fielded over 14,500 calls, texts, and online messages from young LGBTQ+ Texans looking for support. At a time when LGBTQ+ young people need our support the most, the removal of symbols of safety are misguided and cruel. We should all be working to create supportive and affirming environments in our schools that allow all people on campus, including LGBTQ+ students, to focus on academic success. It is our duty to ensure this goal is realized. Equality Texas is steadfast in our commitment to foster safe and inclusive environments where all LGBTQ+ Texans can live authentically and achieve their fullest potential. We applaud MacArthur High School students for their courage.
Equality Texas is the largest statewide organization working to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Texans through political action, education, community organizing, and collaboration.