*The following article contains discussion of suicide/self-harm.
An Ohio teacher left people applauding after giving a stirring and heartfelt speech about protecting trans students.
Dawn Riggs, who has been a teacher for 33 years, gave her speech before the Ohio State Board of Education in response to a resolution that would require Ohio teachers and school staff to out transgender students to their parents.
The resolution also allows school staff to refuse to use trans students' preferred names and pronouns and forbids them from participating in sports teams that do not correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth.
Addressing the Board, Riggs called for respect and inclusion that clearly pointed out just how dangerous resolution's like this one can be for trans kids.
See her speech below.
Riggs began by telling the Board the profound difference it makes for trans kids to know they have a safe space at school.
“I have many trans and nonbinary students in my classes. My experience with transgender individuals spans my entire career. I am still in touch with some of those folks."
"Every single former student has told me how much knowing they had a safe space to be their authentic selves has meant to them”
She also spoke of the many students over the years who opened up to her about their trauma and mental health struggles, including thoughts of suicide.
She said having their trans identity accepted at school made a difference for many trans kids.
"Even if no other adult in their life affirmed their identity, they knew they would be safe for at least a little while each day.”
But when it came to the resolution's requirements for outing students, Riggs was far more forceful.
She told the Board:
“Our students must be able to choose the time and the manner in which they share their transness and with whom. It is not our place to force them to do so. I urge you to oppose this hateful and misguided rhetoric.”
On Twitter, many applauded Riggs' powerful words.
Board member Brendan Shea introduced the “Resolution to Support Parents, Schools, and Districts in Rejecting Harmful, Coercive, and Burdensome Gender Identity Policies” in response to new federal Title IX rules that expand protections for LGBTQ+ students.
Riggs was not alone in her opposition to the resolution.
Three members of the Board of Education released a statement lambasting Shea as a religious ideologue whose "politically charged" resolution is based on factual errors and "lawlessness."
If you or someone you know is struggling, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.
To find help outside the United States, the International Association for Suicide Prevention has resources available at https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/
LGBTQ+ Youth can get help through:
- TrevorChat — 24/7/365 at https://www.thetrevorproject.org/get-help-now/#services
- TrevorLifeline — phone service available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386
- TrevorText — Text “START” to 678678. Available 24/7/365.
- TrevorSpace — online international peer-to-peer community for LGBTQ young people and their friends at https://www.trevorspace.org/
- Trevor Support Center — LGBTQ youth & allies can find answers to FAQs and explore resources at https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/trevor-support-center/#sm.0000121hx9lvicotqs52mb1saenel