Arizona Students Walk Out of Class to Protest Anti-LGBTQ+ Laws

Arizona High School Walkout
Arizona High School Walkout

At Hamilton High School in Arizona last week, more than a hundred students joined others at several schools across the state to skip class.

Students there staged a walkout at several schools to protest two laws that took effect in the state, which critics say target LGBTQ+ young people.

The GOP-controlled state legislature passed a record number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills this year, prompting hundreds of Arizona high schoolers to walk out of their schools, Phoenix New Times reports.

Armed with bullhorns and their own feet, students marched out of classes on Thursday to show their solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.

"These bills are killing us," 16-year-old Chandler, Ariz., student Dawn Shim said, according to the Phoenix New Times. "We aren't out here missing our school day and interrupting our education because we want to. We have been forced into it."

Several walkouts took place throughout the state, including the Hamilton walkout, from Flagstaff to Phoenix.

The walkouts were organized by Support Equality Arizona Schools, an organization that focuses on the new laws. Shim founded the group with other student activists.

In the last legislative session, Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, signed House Bill 2495 and House Bill 2161 into law, which took effect several days ago. With House Bill 2495, public schools will no longer be able to distribute materials or books with sexual content, which is loosely defined, the paper reports. However, teachers must obtain parental consent to use the materials if they are "serious educational value."

House Bill 2161 poses a distinct threat to LGBTQ+ kids, as the original legislation contained explicit language requiring teachers to inform parents of LGBTQ+ students' sexual orientation, the outlet notes. A parent's right to access their child's health, counseling, and electronic records is still guaranteed under the law's final version. Parents may also sue schools under the law if they believe their "parental bill of rights" has been violated.

Moreover, Ducey signed into law a ban on some gender-affirming health care for trans youth and one that prohibits trans students from playing on sports teams that match their gender identity.

"It is embarrassing that we live in both a state and a country where people are at risk simply for being who they are and loving who they want," Blues Patrick, a Hamilton student who is the president of the school's Gender Sexuality Alliance, told the crowd at the walkout, according to the New Times. "We should not have to live in this pseudo-apocalyptic bullshit that we're dealing with right now."

In response to the new laws passed by the state, the school board voted on various policy changes the night before students walked out.

The district modified its policy to ban trans youth from participating in sports teams of their gender identity, remove some library and educational materials, and make other changes due to the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation passed by Ducey this year.