Chants of ‘trans rights matter’, pride flags and placards swamped high school campuses at public Norman schools as more than 100 students demonstrated Senate Bill 615 Friday after a transgender student was suspended three times from school for using the women’s bathroom.
NPS students protested the bill and the NPS administration’s response after Emery Jenkins, a sophomore and transsexual at Norman North High School, was allegedly suspended three times for using the women’s bathroom. SB 615 requires Oklahoma public school students to use restrooms or locker rooms based on their sex assigned at birth, not their gender identity.
Oliver Cogan, a second-year student at Norman High School, also said NHS teachers were seen going into student toilets to prevent pupils from using their preferred toilets.
Protest at Norman North High School
During the protest, Jenkins said she felt insulted by the NPS administration and had been a woman all her life. She said the suspension affected her ability to keep up in class.
“We’re reaching out to kids all over Oklahoma,” Jenkins said. “They deprive us of our education for using the women’s toilets. So we are fighting for them and we are also fighting for me.
Nicole McAfee, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma, wrote in an email after the protests that Freedom OK supports and defends 2SLGBTQ+ people.
They wrote that Oklahoma students deserve welcoming school environments that provide them with spaces to learn and grow, regardless of their gender identity.
“Because of SB 615, students at some NPS campuses are experiencing discrimination and harassment from school staff, being denied access to restrooms, because of their gender or gender. perceived,” McAfee said. “We know these aren’t the only campuses where this is happening.”
In an email to OU Daily, Wes Moody, executive director of communications for Normandy Public Schools, wrote that NPS is making every effort to comply with the law. He wrote that NPS strives to work directly with students and families to ensure their needs are met.
SB 615 requires public school boards in Oklahoma to adopt a policy providing for disciplinary action for districts that refuse to comply. If a district does not comply, they face a 5% reduction in state funding
NNHS senior LJ Villamil said it was an emotional time despite some teachers doing their best to support trans students.
Villamil said the NPS administration told her to use the men’s room – which she hasn’t used in years – after a student allegedly harassed her in the bathroom. She said she used one of three gender-neutral bathrooms on campus.
“We are committed to ensuring that our schools are a safe, welcoming and productive learning environment for all students, regardless of background, circumstance or unchanging characteristics,” Moody wrote. “We certainly do not tolerate any form of bullying, bullying or harassment.”
Jenkins said early last year there had been anonymous complaints from students who were uncomfortable with Emery using the women’s bathroom. However, she said she continued to use the women’s restroom despite being tracked down and repeatedly punished.
“If they’re not comfortable with me using the restroom, they have every right to use a private restroom,” Jenkins said.
Villamil said she was bullied for being trans, kicked out of the bathroom and told to go “in her place,” but said she wouldn’t let that happen. prevent defending the community.
“There was a right taken away from us when we were told that if we got caught in the bathroom again, we could face suspension or be kicked out,” Villamil said. “Making transgender students use different toilets is segregative and unconstitutional.”
McAfee wrote that 2SLGBTQ+ people have always been part of the Norman community and have used toilets that match their gender identity.
“We deserve the dignity to do just that,” McAfee wrote. “We deserve security to thrive here in Oklahoma. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, this fight isn’t over and we won’t stop until all 2SLGBTQ+ kids are safe.
Villamil said protests would continue until the law is changed.
“Waiting is no longer an option. We have waited too long and we just have to fight back,” Villamil said.
Demonstration at the Lycée Normand
At the NHS protest, Cogan said she decided to form a protest after a friend of hers was allegedly almost suspended for using a toilet of her choice. In an earlier message to OU Daily, Cogan wrote that her peers, who are trans women in the NHS, have also been “verbally and physically harassed” by other students when using the men’s toilet.
“We started talking to people and we realized it wasn’t just an issue here at this school,” Cogan said. “We started talking about (how it’s) unfair that a lot of students at the school aren’t being treated the same as everyone else.”
During the protest, Sara Cunningham, founder of a non-profit organization that advocates for 2SLGBTQ+ people, Free hugs from mom, said she hopes protests like this will inspire changes in Oklahoma law.
“If our governor spent a day with a transgender child, their family, or with an endocrinologist, they would have everything they need to realize that this is a beautiful, spirit-filled community,” said Cunningham. “They bring a source of creativity (and) humanity to our community, to our state, and they deserve to be here and to be celebrated”
Hannah Smith, a member of the Norman community, said she is proud of what the students are doing.
“It makes me emotional,” Smith said. “I am non-binary myself and my wife is trans. Seeing students who are going through this period of discrimination and being scared – the fact that they are reaching out to each other, organizing and speaking up – makes me so proud of them .
During the protest, Cunningham and Smith encouraged students to continue speaking out on the issue. Cunningham told the students to never stop advocating because they are making a change.
“Our word needs to get out there and we need to show it matters,” Cogan said. “These people have feelings, and they are people. They shouldn’t be treated differently because of how they identify.