England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

Strike for trans rights in schools: A step-by-step guide

Anticipated new Tory guidance threatens trans school students. If implemented, schools must inform parents if a student comes out at school or college as trans. LGBTQ+ rights face more attacks in the government’s poisonous ‘culture wars,’ including restrictions on Sex and Relationship Education.

As a school or college student, you will be used to your teachers taking strike action. Students also have the power to strike. There is a long history of school student strikes: in solidarity with workers, protesting against the invasion of Iraq, against tuition fee hikes, and climate strikes. You can organise against the Tory guidance and demand its rejection. Other reasons for strikes include tackling racism, sexism, and outdated uniform policies in schools.

Step One: Gather your forces

Bring together a diverse group of students to discuss organising a protest – a range of representatives from different classes and years can spread the word and bring people out with them. People are also more likely to commit to the action if they have been involved in organising it. Consider how many people are likely to participate, it might affect the type of protest. Meet discreetly outside of school or privately over social media – you don’t want school staff to find out and prevent you from taking the next steps or punish you.

Step Two: Be clear about your plans

Be specific. What would make your protest a success? What could you win that would make a difference? For example, if protesting against anti-trans guidance, demand that it is not implemented in your school and seek agreement from the Head Teacher. If you are protesting the uniform or toilet policy, what is your proposal for an alternative? Discuss collectively and agree on something.

Step Three: Plan your protest

Decide on the time, place, and type of protest. Choose a time that maximises impact, such as during lunch break – refuse to go back into the building at the end – or walking out of a lesson. Determine whether to walk out of the school or stage a sit-in, and select appropriate meeting spots. If you are walking out, think about where you are going to go. You want your protest to be effective but you also want to be safe. You could protest outside the school building or you could march to a nearby public spot, especially if you were going to join protests organised across schools.

Step Four: Gain support

Compile a list of supporters and media contacts. Contact local newspapers for publicity and trade unions for potential participation. Building a network of support can apply pressure on the school and offer post-protest assistance. Your teachers may be in a trade union, such as the National Education Union, which could give you support.

Step Five: Announce the plans

Share the details of the protest with a wider audience, but be cautious about timing to avoid interference. You want to give enough notice that people can think about whether they want to join the protest or not, but you also don’t want to give a lot of time for the school to crack down on the organisers and make plans to prevent the protest from happening. Perhaps the night before, use private social media messages, maintaining anonymity to prevent singling out individuals as leaders.

Step Six: Take action!

Time for the big event. During the protest, use posters, banners, and placards to clearly convey your demands. If you’re walking out of school, you will want these to be discreet – something you can fold in your bag and get out when the protest starts. Be vocal and make your presence and message heard.

Step Seven: Set an end time

Agree on an end time to the protest to prevent it from fizzling out. Set a duration for sit-ins or agree when a walkout will finish and where you will go to ensure everyone gets home safely.

Step Eight: Review

Discuss as a group what went well and what didn’t, thinking about what could be done differently next time (if there is a next time!). There may be repercussions, such as sanctions, detentions or even suspensions. The best way to guard against this is to make the protest as big as possible. If a whole class walks out then it is unlikely that the school will take action against all of you!

However, if it does happen, you may need to organise protests against it. If someone from the school has agreed to speak with you, decide who will go and what you will say. If you don’t get what you want, will you organise another protest? Think about whether there is a way to escalate the action – can you involve more people? Can you do it for longer or a different time of day to make it more disruptive? Do you need to make changes to your demands? Agree collectively on the next steps.

Even if you don’t want to organise another walkout, you may want to set up some kind of student voice group or students’ union in your school. Consider getting politically active – join Socialist Alternative who can help you organise inside and outside of school.


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