The "safe space” stickers were intended to let students know that they could have open conversations about their gender identity and sexuality in that classroom, according to WFAA. Now, The Dallas Morning News is reporting that two teachers have been “removed” from the school for supporting gay and transgender pupils.
In a video posted Wednesday by community-based journalism platform Smash Da Topic, tensions were high as students milled outside the school. Some held a large pride flag and wore rainbow stickers while demanding that MacArthur respect the rights of all students.
“At this school, they told us that we couldn’t share how we feel. But do we care?” one student said.
“No!” the crowd responded.
“We care about the rights of the underrepresented,” the student continued. “And who is that?”
“Us!” the group replied.
Irving ISD isn’t the first Texas school district to attract controversy over its handling of LGBTQ issues.
In 2017, a Mansfield ISD art teacher was suspended after she showed students a picture of her fiancée. Boerne ISD in South Texas also reportedly asked for the resignation of a nonbinary teacher because of complaints about their gender identity and use of the nonbinary honorific, Mx.
Irving ISD did not return the Observer’s request for comment, but last week, the district issued a statement claiming that “every inch” of their schools is a “safe zone for all students.”
August: Boerne ISD is requested the resignation of a nonbinary teacher because of complaints that stem from their gender identity and use if Mx nonbinary honorific. #txlege #StopTargetingTransKids #ProtectTransKids— Equality Texas (@EqualityTexas) September 20, 2021
“While educators have the right to express their personal viewpoints on their personal time, Irving ISD policy … states that teachers shall not use the classroom to transmit personal beliefs regarding political or sectarian issues,” the statement read.
On Thursday, Equality Texas released its own statement on the MacArthur student protestors’ "courageous walkout."
“Safe space” stickers let young LGBTQ people know they can find support with adult allies if they ever need it, the group wrote in a statement. Their removal “sends a dangerous message” to those kids and their peers and “promotes a hostile school climate.”
In addition, 94% of Texas LGBTQ students have reported hearing anti-LGBTQ remarks at school, the group continued. Limiting these kids’ support could harm their mental health.
State legislators across the country and in Texas have ramped up their attacks on the LGBTQ community, Equality Texas wrote. In 2021, lawmakers have filed an “unprecedented number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills,” particularly ones targeting trans kids.
“The debate about the humanity of LGBTQ+ people at the state legislature, especially the fear mongering about the lives of trans people has fueled a culture of bias and discrimination that is now trickling down into our schools,” the group said.
Angela Hale, a senior advisor to Equality Texas, said her group gets reports on a near-weekly basis of LGBTQIA kids being bullied in school. The “horrible things” that some lawmakers say in the state Capitol “is causing this to happen,” she said.
LGBTQ rights advocates are decrying a bill by state Sen. Charles Perry, a Lubbock Republican, that would prevent transgender student athletes from participating on school teams consistent with their gender identity. The Senate passed the proposed law last week.
Having such debates over LGBTQ rights are causing a ripple effect across Texas, Hale said.
“Our LGBTQIA kids are being targeted and they deserve protection, just like every other child in the state,” she said. “This needs to stop. They need to stop targeting innocent children.”