In anticipation of International Transgender Day Of Visibility on March 31, the Gay Straight Alliance at Marshall High School in Michigan created this display to educate their peers:
No one could have imagined what happened next.
According to Kate Samra, a senior at the school and leader of the Marshall Gay Straight Alliance, a parent in the community had seen a picture of the display and took to Facebook to vent her outrage over it.
"[This parent] thought it was promoting students to be LGBTQ and it didn’t uphold Christian values and thought it was very inappropriate for the school setting," Kate explained to MTV News.
Some parents met with the school principal as well about the display, the senior added. Before the day was over, a staff member had removed the display -- well short of the two weeks the GSA had been promised they could show the piece. Neither Kate, nor her staff adviser, were notified.
"[A school staffer] said that another group needed the board and that was the reason for taking it down," Kate told us. "The fact that they had been dishonest with us about why the board was taken down -- the GSA was pretty disappointed in the way the matter was handled."
Though the students were disappointed, they were far from defeated. The GSA decided to show their support by taking a new twist on an old school tradition.
"Some friends of mine, Emily Winkler and Garret Sander, had this idea of painting the school rock," Kate explained. "The school rock is kind of a tradition -- usually for football games or sports events -- but it’s kind of a platform to get messages across. We thought we would all get together to paint the rock for International Transgender Day of Visibility."
More than 50 students, teachers and community members gathered at night to paint the rock pink, white and blue -- the colors of the flag for transgender pride. The gathering has since sparked an outpouring of support and pride on social media:
Discrimination against transgender individuals, particularly teens, is prevalent and an issue that's calling out to be addressed. As GSA member Megan DeBrabander points out, a recent report claims that 41 percent of transgender individuals have attempted suicide.
The students have assured us that their voices -- and the voices of transgender people everywhere -- will not be silenced. "I'm extremely proud of my peers for their student activism in support of transgender awareness," said Marshall High GSA member Garrett Sander. "Students at MHS advocate for the LGBTQ+ community; we want them to know that they are supported, their existence is valid and they have the right to feel respected in school."
At press time, Marshall High School had not responded to MTV News' repeated requests for comment.
For more information about transgender rights and how you can fight bias, head over to MTV's Look Different.
[Update: On April 3, Marshall Public Schools superintendent Dr. Randy Davis issued a statement, saying they "deeply regret how poorly these events were handled" and that "our students in the Gay-Straight Alliance did nothing wrong. ... We applaud their continuing commitment to improve our school climate and culture."]