Anti-transgender policies incite vitriolic debate at US school board meetings

© TikTok / @layalaine

Typically mundane, US school board meetings have become a platform for harsh rhetoric and partisan divides, particularly when it comes to LGBTQ issues and policies that inhibit freedoms for transgender students. From banning books that discuss gender and sexuality to requiring teachers to call students by their legal names, school districts around the country have approved policies that pose “extremely high levels of risk” to transgender students, according to a legislative researcher we spoke to. Still, results from the midterm elections show that not all Americans support them.

On November 8, students staged a walkout at a school in Conway, Arkansas to protest a set of policies targeting transgender students. Two weeks prior, the Conway School Board issued policies to regulate restroom usage based on students’ assigned sex at birth. The ACLU said the move could serve to “stigmatise” students and violate federal laws to protect transgender students in schools.

Three people were arrested while protesting a school board meeting discussing these policies the same day. Chants of “trans lives matter” erupted outside the meeting before the arrests.

A video shared on October 12 captured the school board meeting where officials approved the anti-trans policies. One speaker said that LGBTQ people “deserve death”.

These scenes in Arkansas are far from rare. School board meetings all around the US have become platforms for debates over LGBTQ issues, with lawmakers proposing policies that would ban LGBTQ content in schools and regulate how students’ gender identities would be treated by teachers and administrators.

Erin Reed is an LGBTQ legislative researcher who tracks anti-trans policies around the US.