Young people across time, race and place have always led movements to pave the way for equality and freedom. When communities are under attack, you are the ones who fight back — even when the fight isn’t your own.
From the Greensboro sit-in to more recent protests to defend Black lives, you have shown up stood up and refused to let up until you bend the arc of history toward justice. You have done it in the face of fierce opposition. And you’re still doing it today, even as some politicians seek to hold on to their own power by silencing your voice.
Across the country, some politicians are pushing laws to restrict your freedoms— because of the color of your skin, where you live, the people you love or the gender with which you identify — by targeting the public schools you attend. Rather than adequately funding them, some politicians are using our schools to stoke fear instead of doing their job to ensure our students have everything they need to thrive.
We’re seeing this take place in real time in Florida, where the state legislature just passed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. This deeply disturbing legislation aims to censor educators and prevent them from valuing, affirming and supporting our students because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
And in doing so it also seeks to isolate students, like you, who dare to ask questions to better understand and express yourselves and the world around you.
Sadly, this isn’t just happening in Florida. Across our nation politicians are manufacturing false narratives about young people — and then proposing unconstitutional, discriminatory and just plain harmful “solutions” to nonexistent problems — seeking to inflame and divide communities.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott recently directed the state Department of Family and Protective Services to consider gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth to be “child abuse.” And in 2021 alone, more than 250 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced in state legislatures across America.
These politicians are introducing, passing and enacting these harmful bills into law, hoping that you won’t notice their failures. They’re hoping to twist what they’re doing into making you believe that they’re fighting for kids.
But you aren’t letting them get away with it. From protests to walkouts, you are bravely showing these politicians that you aren’t afraid to stand up for yourselves, speak for yourselves as well as your peers, and fight back. To our students in Florida and elsewhere: We see you! We hear you! We are with you!
During my more than 30 years of teaching, I often found myself learning as much from the courage of my students as they learned from me. And one of my most life-changing lessons came from a young man who bravely confided in me about his own experience of being bullied at school for being gay.
You see, when I overheard bullying in the hallways, I would always step in and intervene. But I would do it in the corner because I didn’t want to embarrass the targeted student.
Listening to this student talk about his own experience and asking me, and all educators, to speak up for him taught me that not only did I need to stand up — others needed to see me do it. They needed to know that Mrs. Pringle’s room was a safe space.
Little did I know the impact this lesson would have not only on me, but on my daughter, whom I was lucky enough to teach in my middle school science class. At that time, neither of us knew that she would one day grow up and fall in love with the woman of her dreams. But as she was struggling in those teenage years with her own identity, she watched me stand up for her classmates and friends.
And when she was ready to come out, she already knew that I would love, support and fight for her. And now that my daughter has a beautiful daughter of her own, it is up to us, all of us, to ensure my granddaughter is safe and her parents are valued and respected.
So to students in Florida and across the country: I urge you to continue standing tall, speaking out and fighting for what is right. And I hope you know that when you do — whenever you do — you will always have an educator in your corner who will not only see and hear you but will stand up with you and demand that people see your humanity, protect your rights and respect you for who you are.