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Non-binary students forced off school bus after refusing to move from ‘boys’ side’ to ‘girls’ side’

Steph Kyriacou September 25, 2017
(Flickr/Scott Beale)

(Flickr/Scott Beale)

Two transgender students were forced off of their high school bus after refusing to obey the gender segregation rules.

The students, Leo Washington, 16, and Aaren Layla Sweenor, 15, “identify as neither male nor female” which is known as non-binary and falls under the trans umbrella, according to local newspaper The Post Star.

The New York students just wanted to sit on the boys’ side of the bus on Friday.

Trans rights protest in Chicago (Getty Images)
Trans rights protest in Chicago (Getty Images)

Leo said: “Before he started the bus, (the bus driver) gave us this weird look, and he told us to get to the girls’ side of the bus”.

The 16-year-old explained that “we didn’t move because we felt more comfortable where we were sitting.

“When we tried to explain it to him, he started yelling at us to move to the other side of the bus.”

Aaren spoke about the bus driver too, saying: “The whole time he said: ‘I don’t care. It’s my bus,’ and ‘I’m not moving till I get what I want.’

“He treated us as if we were wrong.

“The whole experience was traumatic,” they added. “I’ve been so terrified of my feelings and who I am and trying to be myself publicly has been horrifying.

“Coming into high school was a scary thing to begin with, so members of school faculty need to be trained better on how to act.

“Students should not be discriminated against because of their race, gender or sexuality in a place where they’re supposed to be safe to learn,” they continued.

“We need to make schools a safe space for everyone.”

Leo said they thought the gender segregation rules were designed to avoid boy-girl interactions.

(CBS 6 Albany)

“It made me so angry and so upset that we were being discriminated against over something as trivial as gender identity — because it’s who we are.

“We can’t change it. It honestly just was a smack in the face,” Leo continued.

The non-binary student said school officials are taking the situation seriously.

“Especially this year, they’ve been all about acceptance and non-discrimination and different stuff like that,” they said.

This was the first time Leo had experienced transphobia like this.

“Everyone in the school has always been welcoming about my gender situation,” they added.

Leo has identified as gender non-conforming for about a year and a half.

“I always felt like I didn’t really fit in as a girl, but I didn’t fit as a guy either.

“I always just kind of existed,” they said.

The South Glens Falls Central School District released a statement explaining what happened, but managed to misgender the students, referring to them as male-identifying.

“After all students found a seat, the driver asked these students (Leo and Aaren) to move to the “right” side of the bus,” the statement read.

“The students politely refused and remained in their seats, with every right to do so. The driver then gave the students a choice of either moving or getting off the school bus.

“Other students on the school bus voiced their concerns about how this situation was being handled.”

The statement went on to say that “instead of moving, the two students exited the bus before it left the school parking lot.

The Superintendent of Schools, Michael Patton, also commented on the incident, saying: “We do not tolerate any form of discrimination against our students.

“All students need to feel safe and supported when they are in our classrooms, on our school property, or riding in our school buses.

He added: “We will continue to work hard in creating a supportive learning environment that is safe and free of any form of discrimination.”

Further to prior training, gender sensitivity training will be scheduled for all staff, to ensure the district is creating a safe and supportive environment for all students.

Watch a video of the incident below:
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5SmX_PzpWc&w=560&h=315]

More: Children, Education, New York, non-binary, school, school bus, teenagers, transphobia, US, US

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