Mohawk Trail Regional School students walk out in protest of anti-LGBTQ legislation

  • Students and faculty at Mohawk Trail Regional School in Buckland walk out of school on Friday to protest anti-LBGTQ legislation across the country. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Mohawk Trail Regional School juniors Rylee Hager and Emery King, center, organized a walk out of school on Friday to protest anti-LBGTQ legislation across the country. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Mohawk Trail Regional School juniors Emery King and Rylee Hager, at left, organized a walk out of school on Friday to protest anti-LBGTQ legislation across the country. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 3/11/2022 5:24:23 PM

BUCKLAND — As part of a nationwide protest against growing anti-LGBTQ legislation across the country, Mohawk Trail Regional School students walked out of class Friday afternoon to raise awareness in the community about the issue.

“When there’s a direct attack on our community,” said walkout co-organizer Emery King, “we wanted to do something.”

The walkout saw more than 75% of the student body gather outside the school from 12:50 to 1:10 p.m. carrying rainbow flags and signs with phrases like “protect queer youth” and “respect existence or expect resistance.” King and fellow junior Rylee Hager worked with the Mohawk Trail Equity Alliance (MTEA), a school group that facilitates conversations about social equity.

“We just want to acknowledge how accepting and wonderful it is at Mohawk,” King told the crowd of students. “I’m happy all of you guys can show your support here.”

Hager and King highlighted recent legislation being advanced across the country, such as legislation in Florida that forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade that is “not age appropriate,” which critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The legislation recently passed the Florida Senate and is awaiting Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature.

“They do not clarify what this ‘age appropriate’ means,” Hager said to the crowd, adding that increased awareness about LGBTQ people is essential to creating a more accepting society.

Both Hager and King said afterward they would have been more comfortable with their own identities if they had received more education and awareness about sexuality when they were younger.

“It’s hard to know that you’re different,” King said, “and you don’t know why.”

Mohawk Trail Equity Alliance faculty advisor and health teacher Tamara Brown said the walkout was student organized and she was really happy to see so many students show their support.

“It further shows them they’re loved and accepted,” Brown said. “I’m proud.”

Senior Hale Walls said he was “very angry” about these government policies, especially ones being passed in his native state of Texas.

“Do they not have the same right to protection as other kids?” Walls said. “It’s heartbreaking and leads to a world where we normalize and breed hate.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbot issued an executive order last month to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services that allows the government to investigate parents who allow their children to get gender-affirming surgical procedures or provide access to puberty-affecting prescription drugs under allegations of child abuse.

While Walls said Mohawk Trail Regional School and this area are more accepting of LGBTQ people, he said people around here often forget about the “gravity” of the situation and how so many people are affected, even if it is not happening in Massachusetts. He added that these types of bills only further harm gay and transgender children, who are already subject to bullying and increased suicide rates.

“It’s easy to think it’s not that big of a deal,” Walls said. “We’re talking about the lives of so many children, we’re talking about killing people.”

King and Hager said they were happy to see such a large turnout from the student body and even though Mohawk Trail is just a small school in western Massachusetts, they hope their efforts can raise awareness about LGBTQ rights everywhere.

“It’s cool to lead something like this and show other people they’re not alone,” Hager said.

“To see everyone here, you’re not alone,” King said. “We’re here, we’re queer and we’re not going anywhere.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at or 413-930-4081.


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