Leawood elementary students rally together, protecting trans student from hate group

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LEAWOOD, Kan. -- A Shawnee Mission school community came together to support a child targeted by hate.

Groups of parents and students walked to school Wednesday morning in a show of support and solidarity.

"Together we are unstoppable," read a chalk sign drawn on the sidewalk in front of Brookwood Elementary School.

It's more than just a chalk sidewalk sign though, it is a sentiment children and parents at Brookwood are living.

"It’s really about a celebration of our community and love and acceptance," said Gigi Burton, who organized a unity walk to school. "Last Friday we found out that a hate group was going to protest our school, and it just hit me the they would target an elementary school.”

The hate from a group targeting a transgender student at Brookwood Elementary forged love among a much mightier group, uniting in kindness and acceptance.

"It actually has turned a negative into a positive,” Burton said. “I know our school is wonderful, and I felt so much support personally and to see band together and turn it into one of hope is wonderful."

While the school community walked to school together, others from the larger community lined the way, showing their support for the child and everyone at Brookwood Elementary.

"We have to stand up for what we believe in," said 5th grader Vivien Krause. “Everybody should be treated equally."

In partnership with the University of Connecticut, the Human Rights Campaign launched a study that reveals serious challenges in the feeling of acceptance among LGBTQ youth.

Even more compelling are the stories of empowerment and resilience among that group when parents, school administrators and others stand with LGBTQ youth creating an affirming and welcoming space for them.

It's something that seems to come naturally to the children at Brookwood, who see people as people.

“It is really important to the people who are feeling scared or sad for what may happen in the future, and it is important that we do this because it is more standing up for other people,” Krause said.

Benjamin Imhoff, a 6th grader, summed it up perfectly: “It’s to make everyone feel welcome and that they matter.”

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