When students at Kennewick High School in rural Central Washington were walking into their school building earlier this month, they were surprised when members of a group called “Abolish Human Abortion” approached them with graphic, hate-filled fliers that specifically targeted LGBTQ people.
Almost immediately, local parents and concerned community members jumped into action.
Janie Romine, a board member with Benton-Franklin PFLAG, a Pride Foundation Grant Recipient, and others came together through social media with one central goal: to greet these same students the very next day with messages of love and support.
And through those conversations, the Love Army Tri-Cities was formed.
Not only did they show up for these students the next day, but their efforts did not stop there. Beginning the very next morning, and ever since, local community members have been compiling information regarding any anti-LGBTQ activities from various schools in the area and showing up to support students. They learned similar activities had been observed at Chinook Middle School a few weeks earlier. Since then, even more community conversations have been held focused on showing LGBTQ youth they are loved and supported.
Through the quick action of concerned parents and community members, Kennewick High School students were met with a line of assurance and support as they exited their school. As one student commented, “I can’t believe how many are here. At first there were just a few of you, but look how many are here now—this is awesome!”
Several local residents also presented at the next Kennewick School Board meeting in hopes of expressing their concerns with the board. Janie Romine then left her thoughts with the board in a letter:
“As the mother of a young gay teen and as a PFLAG board member, I can assure you that LGBTQ youth who are loved and accepted will thrive, and, conversely, when they are rejected and vilified they are surely at a higher risk for self-harm and even suicide. This is not hyperbole. Being an LGBTQ youth in this conservative area is like walking in a minefield. These kids have enough challenges without facing such unsolicited hate.”
Thank you to the parents and community members in Kennewick—and beyond—who stand up to show LGBTQ youth that they are loved, valued, and protected.
Tylene Carnell is Pride Foundation’s Regional Philanthropy Officer in Central/Eastern Washington. Email Tylene.