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Students say restrictive new education laws are scary and frustrating

George Izu, a 14-year-old student in Katy, Texas, no longer feels like school is a place he can trust to fully teach him about history and current affairs. Ever since a Texas law was passed limiting how educators can discuss race and racism, Izu, who is black, has been frustrated and confused.

He didn’t understand, for example, how a teacher could avoid conversations about the Holocaust.

“The effects were horrible and horrifying, but it’s still important to know what happened because history is a loop,” he said. “If we don’t learn what happened and how things like this happen, how are we supposed to prevent things like this from happening again in the future?”

Izu said he now needs to supplement his education with other sources that he deems credible and trustworthy.

“I shouldn’t have to do this. I should be able to trust what my upbringing gives me,” he said. “I should learn history, basically.”

While Republican lawmakers and school boards have proposed or passed education policies to restrict how topics such as race and LGBTQ issues can be addressed in schools — by removing access to certain books and banning transgender students from sports teams that match their gender identity – minority and LGBTQ students say they feel they are living in a time when their values, even their identity, are under attack.

In recent interviews, middle and high school students living in states that recently passed laws limiting what they can learn said the direction of education in America has left them fearful, anxious, and frustrated, but also determined. to retaliate.

A protest against HB 616, Ohio’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, outside the Statehouse in Columbus on April 9.Fred Squillante/The Columbus Dispatch via USA TODAY Network

Darion Frazier, a 17-year-old junior from DeKalb County, Georgia, said he was “shocked and appalled” by the way Republican lawmakers have focused on “those things that just aren’t real issues. “while “we and the students of Georgia have real issues that need to be addressed immediately.

Last month, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed into law several controversial education bills that, among other things, restrict discussions of race in classrooms and allow transgender athletes to be excluded from teams. sports that match their gender identity, reflecting a national push by Republicans to redefine American schools.

Republican legislatures and activists across the country have targeted programs and called for the removal of books dealing with racism or sexuality, the majority of them featuring LGBTQ characters and issues. Supporters of some of the bills say they protect “parents’ rights” and that the bills give parents more say in raising their children.

Frazier, who is black, said he was taking classes in a building with mold, sewer system issues and HVAC system issues.

“We should be worried about sewage problems in our schools, about malfunctioning HVAC systems, about persistently underfunded teachers,” he said, not about “critical poverty theory” arguments. race” or the banning of transgender students from certain sports teams.

Christin White-Kaiser, whose 12-year-old son Mylo is transgender, said she saw her child become “very withdrawn” after talking to someone outside of her family. He was home-schooled for part of this year due to bullying and talk of a Louisiana bill that would restrict how educators can address sexual and gender identities, which opponents call a “don’t say gay” bill. A similar measure was signed into law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

White-Kaiser said Mylo told him that such bills made him feel that people who identify as LGBTQ “don’t matter” and that lawmakers “want to get rid of us by making us to hush up”. Mylo wrote letters and emails to state officials.

“I wish people would ask more questions and want to understand that we’re not the enemy,” White-Kaiser told Mylo. “We just want to be our true selves.”

Florida high school student Zander Moricz, who is part of a lawsuit against the state’s so-called Don’t Say Gay Law, said he has received many messages from other LGBTQ students who are “really, really worried” about what this means for their lives.

Students say restrictive new education laws are scary and frustrating
Zander Moricz.Courtesy of Zander Moricz

Students asked questions: Should they always wear LGBTQ Pride pins on their backpacks? Some planned to go out and now wondered if they still had to.

“It was the most heartbreaking thing in the world,” said Moricz, 18, who is gay.

Moricz said it was “horrifying” to see how the bill was passed and passed by conservatives.

“For something like silencing an entire community to feel socially acceptable is a nightmare. It’s dystopian,” he said.

Florida passed the Parental Rights in Education Bill this year. The bill prohibits “classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity” in elementary schools across the state.

CJ Walden, 17, a Florida high school student who is vice president of PRISM, an LGBTQ youth advocacy group, said students of all ages fear what the law means for their future.

Students say restrictive new education laws are scary and frustrating
CJ Walden at “GSA’s #GayIsOkay Rally on March 1.Courtesy of Alexys Fenning

“I saw through every person I spoke to heightened levels of fear and exasperation,” he said.

LGBTQ students face homophobia and bullying, sometimes from family members who don’t support their identity.

“They don’t have support at home, and this bill threatens to take away that support from the only other place they could turn to: school,” he said. “What do we expect to happen?” »

Walden said that while he and other young people worry about what’s next, the LGBTQ community “isn’t just going to quit.”

“We are not going to be silenced,” he said. “We’re going to be loud.

Students say restrictive new education laws are scary and frustrating
Gabrielle and George Izu.Courtesy of Gabrielle and George’s family

Students across Florida have staged protests, marches and walkouts in response to the legislation.

“We’re not going to back down, not women, not the LGBTQ+ community and certainly not people of color either,” he said.

In Katy, Texas, George Izu’s sister, Gabrielle Izu, a high school student, said that when she sees the restrictions on education or the types of books that are taken out of schools, “it’s terrifying, because this is my story”.

“When you don’t allow people to learn and when you hide things from them, you can essentially change reality,” she said.

Gabrielle Izu, 17, said she spoke at Katy Independent School District board meetings and saw how some parents who supported conservative education policies directly opposed student speaking.

“Watching people take something as sacred as education as part of someone’s development, their understanding of the world, and try to bend it to their own will has been terrifying,” he said. she declared.

George Izu said he was proud of his sister’s advocacy and efforts to stand up for what she believes in.

“It’s nice to know that at least some groups are taking action to try to do their best to get our education, honestly, where it should be,” he said, adding that he wished that his sister and other students don’t have to. that.

“I’m proud of her and disappointed with the system,” he said.

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