More Than a Walkout

One group of students brought a national protest to existence locally.


   Due to the recent passage of a Florida bill which “prohibits classroom discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity” —otherwise known as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill”—senior Addison Langhorst took to the Liberty High School football field at 7:45am in below freezing weather with nearly one hundred other students to protest similar legislation in Missouri. 

   These nation-wide conglomerate student-led protests pursue the ongoing, and similarly related, debate which stirred national tension earlier in the year and ultimately caused many schools to question whether or not a multitude of books surrounding topics of sexuality, gender and race should be kept on school library shelves due to their depictions being graphic. 

   “Education has huge impacts by allowing people who are queer to understand that they are not broken,” Langhorst said. “So many of us feel like we are broken— that we are in the wrong or that there’s something fundamentally wrong with us just because of who we are. It’s important for that educational piece to teach us that we are not broken. We are human.”

   As the protest continued through the morning, several students stood on bleachers and gave emotion-filled testimonies of their experiences with discirimantion—many highlighting the homophobia and transphobia present within their own homes. Junior Kayna Carroll was one student who shared a personal story at the protest and highlighted the importance of using voice to be an advocate in everyday life.  

   “Be who you are— be unapologetically you,” Carroll said.  “Don’t let anyone quiet your voice, especially as an LGBTQ+ person. I know that it can be hard, but keep speaking against the problems that we face in our community.” 

   Throughout the month, Langhorst gathered tens of interested students to lead the We Say Gay campaign, all of who put in hours of work, yet the walkout was only a portion of the group’s ultimate goal. The group drafted a list of demands to send to various school administrators and Missouri legislators in an attempt to prevent higher-ups from voting in favor of discriminatory legislation in the future.

   “Legislation in Florida has huge impacts in the rest of the country because the rest of the country takes that legislation and says, ‘we could pass that here,’” said Langhorst. “We’re seeing that in Missouri, where 16 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have already been proposed.”

   While most students either stood in support or impartial to the walkout, it wasn’t taken lightly by some others. Several screenshots surfaced on social media of students using homophobic slurs and language to caption pictures of the walkout. 

   “Honestly, the vitriol was expected,” Langhorst said. “ This is, after all, a wedge issue. The hate is what we’re protesting. We know it’s social, not personal. The hard part for me was not being able to have face-to-face conversations with people about what they believe and why. That lack of communication is what got us here.”