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State troopers bully and threaten to arrest queer students for simply using the bathroom

Josh Milton March 13, 2020
State troopers thronged the Iowa Capitol Hill building and demanded the trans teens leave the premises after using restrooms that align with their gender identity. The Iowa state trooper demanded the trans teen leave after they used the restroom, with one teen lashing back "Why do you care?" On the right, the students leave the building in tears. (Iowa Safe Schools)

State troopers thronged the Iowa Capitol Hill building and demanded the trans teens leave the premises after using restrooms that align with their gender identity. The Iowa state trooper demanded the trans teen leave after they used the restroom, with one teen lashing back "Why do you care?" On the right, the students leave the building in tears. (Iowa Safe Schools)

All the teenagers did was use the bathroom. Yet a group of LGBT+ high school students were reduced to tears – some experiencing panic attacks – after four Iowa state troopers forcibly pushed them and forced them to leave.

Teens opened the doors of the Iowa Capitol Hill building Thursday afternoon to lobby legislators on issues impacting LGBT+ youth, only for troopers to force them out within 30 minutes.

In mobile phone footage seen by PinkNews, a trooper, who called himself “Seargent Underwood”, can be seen scolding trans and non-binary students before shoving them out of the statehouse.

“It was pure chaos,” the group’s executive director Nate Monson told Iowa Starting Line, detailing how school leaders scrambled to keep tabs on what students were removed from the building. Troopers reportedly denied students, dehydrating and nearly fainting, from using public water fountains.

The highly charged debate over trans rights has resulted in a tangle of, at times, contrasting laws governing access to public bathrooms across the US. Only last month did lawmakers pitch a bill that threatened to strip state discrimination protections from trans citizens, only for it to be squashed.

Students expelled from government building for using the bathroom. 

One trans teen told the paper that after using the men’s bathroom, a man in a stall reprimanded him for wearing makeup, allegedly stating: “You’re in the wrong bathroom.”

This set into motion a cascading series of events, with troopers surrounding the teens and scuffling with them around 1pm. Misgendering the teens, witnesses claimed, with one student begging a troop not to “be touched” as his voice grew louder.

“They started rounding up any kid that was wearing rainbow, essentially,” Monson explained.

“They got in my face and told me I had to be quiet. It was quite intimidating.”

Troopers threatened the teens with being arrested, the footage showed, with several other trans students being stonewalled from entering the restrooms. While on the second-floor rotunda of the building, as students wore Pride flag capes and clutched backpacks, the throng of troopers demanded the students leave.

Clashing with one of the troopers, Monson insists to the troops, his voice trembling, that the Iowa Civil Rights act voters public accommodations, including public restroom.

The Iowa state trooper demanded the trans teen leave after they used the restroom, with one teen lashing back "Why do you care?" On the right, the students leave the building in tears. (Iowa Safe Schools)
The Iowa state trooper demanded the trans teen leave after they used the restroom, with one teen lashing back “Why do you care?” On the right, the students leave the building in tears. (Iowa Safe Schools)

But the trooper, Underwood, squashes this: “That is not a gender-neutral restroom, it is a male restroom.”

“Leave or you will be arrested,” he added, as heard in the footage.

“I witnessed a state trooper what I consider verbally assaulting one of my students,” said Andrew Krischel, a teacher and GSA adviser at Southeast Polk High School.

“He was yelling at him, saying he wasn’t allowed to use the restroom because he’s a little girl, and if he went in the restroom he’d be sexually assaulted or something like that.”

Krischel claimed that as students were hurried out by staff, she tried to help a dehydrated student only for a Capitol Hill official to get water on the way out of the building or else be arrested. Moreover, in another clip, the students can be seen sobbing as they scurry down the stairs, where one student perched on the stairs.

They later scream, “Leave me the f*** alone!”, after the troopers surround them.

Trans teens left in tears, but Democratic lawmakers come to comfort them. 

As a result of the treatment of the teens, school leaders are calling for the troopers to be “terminated”.

“I think the Capitol needs to have a serious conversation with all their staff and legislators to make sure it’s a space where everyone can feel included,” Monson said.

“It’s their building, and they were told it wasn’t today.”

The students later spilt out onto the steps outside Capitol Hill, many sobbing and others visibly shaking. A cavalcade of Democratic lawmakers, including Janet Petersen, Todd Prichard, Liz Bennett, Ross Wilburn, Jennifer Konfrst, Heather Matson and Chris Hall, as well as state auditor Rob Sand, all came outside to reassure the students.

“I wanted to make sure you know, that you were just on the floor of the House, that is where you belong,” Konfrst told students.

“You have every right to be here and we’re very grateful you’re here.

“There are people here who love you and want you here.”

More: bathroom, gender neutral bathroom, Iowa, Iowa Capitol Hill

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