Students protest proposed laws


Students at West Liberty High School leading last week’s LGTBQ support rally at the high school said they wanted their voices heard by legislators. They led a walk-out and rally outside of the high school Wednesday, March 1.

Allison Toro Grove and Celeste Vargas organized the event.

“We decided Monday of this week (Feb. 27) to have the rally” Toro-Grove said. “We wanted to show our support and are excited to help the LGTBQ community.”

Toro Grove called the proposed laws infuriating.

“One of the bills would forcibly out the students if they staff found out they were transgender,” she said.

Nearly 50 students stood outside the high school at 1 p.m. last Wednesday afternoon.

“This is not just for us,” Toro Grove said. “This is for a bigger part of our community and for the future of Iowa. We are proud of what we did here today.”

Vargas told everyone at the rally that the proposed legislations were horrible for the LGTBQ community in Iowa.

“What we did today, the walk out is very, very important,” Vargas said. “This is so much bigger than you. Thank you for being here today and for your contribution of walking out. We appreciate you.”

Deb Vandergaast, who ran as a Democrat for Iowa Senate, and a member of the Cedar County Democrats, was invited to speak.

“I’m not here today as a politician,” Vandergaast said. “I’m here as a mom because I have kids who are queer and other family members that are queer that I love very much.”

She has a child who is transgender and friends who are transgender, she added. She told everyone in attendance it was wrong how the LGTBQ population in Iowa was being treated. She called the legislators bullies and said they were bullying kids.

“So now it’s your turn to have a voice, your turn to speak and to control your future,” Vandergaast said.

She urged students who were 17 to register to vote because they would be able to vote in the next general election. She also urged students who weren’t old enough to volunteer in community organizations or political organizations to help get the word out about how they felt.

When Vandergaast finished, she asked the students to chant the saying they created for this event: We say gay.” The students said it several times loudly.

Several other students participating in the walkout criticized the proposed LGTBQ legislation. The protest lasted for almost an hour.

West Liberty High School principal Brenda Arthur-Miller watched the students protest.

“I’m proud of the students,” Arthur-Miller said. “I think it’s important that they understand their right to express their opinions and that they really understand their civic responsibility and their civic rights.”

The high school is one of the places students learn about their civic responsibility as well as at home with parents, she added.

To help keep students and staff safe at the high school, Arthur-Miller asked the West Liberty Police Department to be in attendance during the event, she said.