Middle school staff coordinates with GSA club to facilitate student walkout; district policy is to hide students’ gender transition from parents


A Topeka Public Schools middle school counselor, and the GSA club moderator, helped students organize a school day “walkout” April 1, 2022. A public records request reveals that in an email to a peer, the middle school counselor states that “Our GSA met and we talked about why we would want to support a walk out (although we are not calling it a walkout) but a walk.” The email continues by stating that it is important to “support our LGBTQ+ community” especially “in light of the recent laws being passed and debated.”

A student email to the school counselor states that it has come to their attention that there will be a “nationwide school walkout on April 1st, 2022” and that the walkout is “basically just going against the Dont Say Gay Bill [sic], and certain states passing laws against transwomen playing sports.” The email author continues by writing “I think if would be truly amazing if we could all come together and protest against this discriminating law.”

In a response to a Language Arts teacher seeking advisement related to the students email, the middle school principal recommends to “Do it during a Science plan or team so 8th graders do not miss out on testing.”

In an all-staff email from March 31, 2022, the French Middle School principal states that they “agreed on calling it a support walk since walk out has a negative connotation.” The email continues, stating that the support walk is “completely voluntary,” and staff who “do not wish to participate will just stay in their classrooms and continue with instruction.” Staff who do wish to participate, but have students who do no can “send students to the commons with their chromebooks.”

A student speech, which was part of the event, states “Our teachers are doing a great job using our names and our pronouns,” and that “trans students can use whatever bathroom they wish is truly amazing.”

According to the Topeka Public Schools “Guidelines for Transgender Students at School,” student privacy guidelines states that school personnel “should not disclose information that may reveal a student’s transgender status or gender nonconforming presentation to others, including parents and other school personnel, unless legally required to do so or unless the student has authorized such disclosure”

The guidelines also add that a student “has the right to be addressed by a name and pronoun that corresponds to the student’s gender identity” and “intentional or persistent refusal to respect a student’s gender identity (for example, intentionally referring to the student by a name or pronoun that does not correspond to the student’s gender identity) is a violation of these guidelines.”

A district meeting agenda from February 12, 2020, states that transgender students have “the right to use the bathroom that is consistent with their gender identity.” The agenda continues by noting that “any other student/parent that is uncomfortable, they have the right to use a different facility (i.e. nurse’s office, etc.).”