Students in Union County held a youth-led LGBTQ+ Pride Rally in Waxhaw at the Water Tower Community Corner Saturday, May 27 in response to ongoing attacks on the rights of LGBTQ youth in Union County schools.
In April of 2023, the Union County board introduced revisions to its policy 5-01, Selection of Instructional Materials. The new policy passed during the regular board meeting on May 2.
Updates to the policy restrict classroom displays to “materials which represent the United States, the State of North Carolina, the school name and mascot and/or tie directly to the curriculum.”
While the policy might seem innocuous, members of the LGBTQ community say that school board members designed the policy to ban displays of pride flags, Black Lives Matter content and other displays that affirm marginalized student groups.
Regan Shaw, a parent of a Union County student and PFLAG member, says that language in the policy also targets books in school libraries with LGBTQ characters for removal. The new policy is a direct attack on LGBTQ young people, educators, and families, and echoes a national trend of organized hate groups using misinformation to censor the voices and stories of people with marginalized identities in public schools.
“In this entire crossfire, no one has thought about the students,” rally organizer Sydney Satalino said to the crowd that had gathered for the event. “The students have not had a say in this policy, which, at the end of the day, will affect them, not their parents or the school board members. [Students] know that it only seeks to other them and to make them feel more excluded in schools that can already be isolating. Schools should be a safe space for everyone. No matter who you are, what you believe in or who you love.”
In a press release, the organization Equality NC offered the following statement: “Our schools should protect all students and respect all families – including queer and trans students and families – so they can learn and thrive in a safe environment. LGBTQ+ youth already face discrimination in their daily lives and often turn to affirming teachers and school staff to support them in the classroom and beyond.”
Also this past weekend on Sunday, May 28, in Asheville, multiple LGBTQ and allied groups came together for “Rally 4 Rights,” an event organized by a local group known as The Beer City Sisters in response to the increasing amount of anti-trans and anti-drag legislation introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly.
Other organizations that took part in the event include Blue Ridge Pride, Tranzmission, Arms Around ASD and Planned Parenthood.
In a story reported by the news department of Asheville channel WLOS-TV Channel 13, a member of the Beer City Sisters who identified as Hedwig Merkin confirmed the importance of coming out and encouraging the community to rally against legislated hate and discrimination.
“The queer community has been fighting for our civil rights and queer liberation … for decades and this is not a new thing, this setback,” Merkin said.
This list includes legislation the Asheville event rallied to bring attention to:
NC H43 Prohibitions of Certain Hormone/Surgery/Minors
NC H574 and NC S631 Fairness in Women’s Sports Act
NC H673 Clarify Regulations on Adult Entertainment
NC H786 and NC S639 Youth Protection Act
NC H808 Surgical Gender Trans./Minors
NC S49 Parents’ Bill of Rights
NC S560 Medical Treatment for Minors Acts
NC S636 School Athletic Transparency
For more details on the Beer City Sisters visit http://www.beercitysisters.org/
Information on Equality NC is available at www.equalitync.org