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Hampton Roads high school students walk out of class to protest transgender policy changes

Some students at Bayside High School left the building carrying a Transgender Pride flag Tuesday morning.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Author's note: The video above is on file from a story that first aired on Sept. 26, and explains how you can make your voice heard on this issue.

It's a wave felt across the entire state of Virginia -- students walked out of class Tuesday to spread the message of protecting transgender youth in schools. 

That included several schools in Hampton Roads, where students walked out, holding hands in solidarity.

High school students were protesting proposed changes to transgender student policies.

The changes, coming from Gov. Glenn Youngkin's administration, say school divisions would have to share sensitive student information with parents and school personnel, have to refer to a student by the name and pronouns in their official records, and require legal documents or court orders to change a child's recorded name or sex.

Student-run Pride Liberation Project organized the walk-outs across the Commonwealth. You can see a list of schools that had planned walkouts here.

These local schools were all on the list:

  • Warwick High School (Newport News)
  • Manor High School (Portsmouth)
  • Jamestown High School (Williamsburg-James City County)
  • Warhill High School (Williamsburg-James City County)
  • Lafayette High School (Williamsburg-James City County)
  • First Colonial High School (Virginia Beach) 
  • Kempsville High School (Virginia Beach)
  • Bayside High School (Virginia Beach) 
  • Princess Anne High School (Virginia Beach) 
  • Salem High School (Virginia Beach) 
  • Tallwood High School (Virginia Beach)

13News Now was at Bayside High School and saw a few students walk out with a teal, pink and white striped transgender pride flag.

The principal called them away from the front of the school before they could start. When our crew asked why the students had to walk away, he said he "found them a safer place to protest," adding his concern over the publicly announced timing of the walk-out.

Over at First Colonial High School, a group of students walked out at 1:40 p.m. waving signs around and chanting, "Protect trans youth!" The group held hands and raised their arms up to show unity before the students went home for the day.

In response to the walk-outs across the state, Macaulay Porter, a spokesperson with Youngkin's office, sent 13News Now the following statement:

“The guidelines make it clear that when parents are part of the process, schools will accommodate the requests of children and their families. 

Parents should be a part of their children’s lives, and it’s apparent through the public protests and on-camera interviews that those objecting to the guidance already have their parents as part of that conversation. 

While students exercise their free speech today, we’d note that these policies state that students should be treated with compassion and schools should be free from bullying and harassment.”  

Stacie Walls, CEO of LGBT Life Center, said she applauds the students for walking out and showing their support across the state. She said the mistreatment of transgender students could be detrimental to their mental health.

"These are kids who are already at risk and have a much higher risk of attempting suicide and all the other things, so I think it's important to remember that kids hear us," said Walls.

Walls said she understands the need for parental involvement in the discussion regarding children at school; however, she said not every student's home life is the same.

"These policies are so detrimental that schools are required to tell parents. The reality is, not all parents are supportive," said Walls. "Not all parents create a loving environment for their child to explore their gender or sexual orientation."

However, Walls said there are still ways to create a safe environment for students without changing these policies.

"As parents learn how to support their trans youth, their trans children...if we know they spend most of their lives in schools, we would want schools to be supportive, too," Walls explained.

The walk-outs wrapped up Tuesday afternoon in Hampton Roads.

Now that the 30-day public comment period opened on September 26, people can share their thoughts on a proposal to change previous transgender policies in Virginia schools with ones focused on promoting parents' rights.

The public comment period about the proposal opened on the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall's website Monday and closes on Oct. 26 at 11:59 p.m. The administration is aiming to enact the new policies the following day.

While these policies are set forth by the governor, school board members can still vote on whether or not they want to adopt these policies.

WUSA contributed to this report.

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