Locked into discrimination

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

Anthony Saldana

“If there were someone armed in my school, I would have been the first one gone,” said a terrified student from Stafford County Middle School. Phrases like this have been said countless times after school shootings like Columbine High School, Santa Fe High School, Alpine High School and countless others. This case was different, it was not fear because of the lack of school safety, instead, it was the school that scared her.

A transgender student attending Stafford County Middle School has spoken out about her petrifying experience during a lockdown. Stafford County Middle School’s current protocol is to escort students into their locker rooms to hide from an attacker, but for transgender students, they exclude them based on their fears of a transgender individual in a locker room. “They are doing what they were told to do. Blame is pointless now. I want to stop being treated like an afterthought,” she wrote. As her classmates were escorted to their gender-specific locker rooms, the teachers decided to do what they thought was best by leaving her alone in a hallway. “What happened that day was the most humiliating and embarrassing thing I have ever dealt with. I had to have my teachers debate my safety when it is just common sense.” The staff of Stafford County Middle School put the comfort of their transphobic staff over the safety of a student, leading to an experience that the transgender student will never forget.

This mentality of excluding transgender people from daily tasks, such as going to the bathroom or even buying a wedding cake is nothing new. This type of mentality is slowly evolving from simple fears and protests to complete discrimination on every basis. There shouldn’t be any discrimination toward transgenders, as they are just like everyone else. Furthermore, there especially shouldn’t be discrimination when it comes to someone’s safety. Comfort is not an excuse to exclude someone and put that individual in harm’s way. Imagine it the other way around: a straight male walks into a gay bar, a fight breaks out and while everyone leaves, they shut the door on the straight male to leave him alone with the attacker. That’s completely wrong of them to do. However, this is the same mentality the school used towards a middle schooler, a child, who was already terrified of lockdowns and drills. This old mentality is completely unacceptable under any circumstance.

The superintendent of the school eventually issued a statement during a public hearing, “We did not live up to my unwavering expectation that every child and adult — regardless of race, religion, color, disability, gender and sexual orientation — is treated with respect and dignity, and for that I apologize to the student, the family and the Stafford community.” The statement is merely another blanket statement, like many others that try to deflect from the situation and don’t address anything at all. There’s no guarantee that this student will receive equal treatment and only proves that situations like this can extend past Stafford onto other schools. No one should be treated differently because of their sexual orientation; it is just a preference that shouldn’t define a person — it is under the same category as race, skin color, national origin and others. These are just pieces that connect together to make us who we are. Regardless of who we are, we should all be treated equally. Whether you are a transgender middle schooler or a straight person, safety should always be a priority and not a tool to discriminate.