September 11, 2017 at 11:44 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Anti-LGBT posts appear on Va. student Snapchat account

Anti-LGBT messages and pictures appeared on a student-run Snapchat page in Stafford County, Va., last week. (Photo courtesy of Amy Adams/Equality Stafford)

Two anti-LGBT posts appeared on a student-run Snapchat account in Stafford County last week.

One of the posts is a poster that reads “lesbian gay bisexual transgender pedosexual” with the acronym “LGBTP” and the slogan “equality and acceptance.” The second post is a picture of what one source described to the Washington Blade as a “group of kids burning a rainbow flag” in a trash can.

Tony Belotti, president of Sexuality and Gender Equality, an LGBT-inclusive student group at Colonial Forge High School in Stafford, told the Blade on Saturday during a telephone interview that a friend who saw the posts first took screenshots of them.

“It was awful in general that they could be hateful in such an open forum,” said Belotti, noting students have made similar posts in the past. “What bothered me most was they felt comfortable enough.”

Belotti told the Blade someone in a previous post who described transgender people as “beautiful” and wrote “people with mental illness matter” faced criticism from other students. Belotti said they also made fun of someone with autism.

“It’s a reflection of what I think is our society,” he told the Blade. “The people who exert positivity in this world and exert equal rights are seen as offensive.”

Amy Adams of Equality Stafford, a local LGBT advocacy group, on Friday said the picture of the flag burning was “obviously . . . the scary one.”

“Some of the kids were disturbed by and upset by it and obviously felt very threatened,” she told the Blade during a telephone interview.

Adams pointed out the posts appeared against the backdrop of the ongoing debate to expand the Stafford County School District’s nondiscrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

The school board in 2015 voted unanimously to prevent a trans student at Hartwood Elementary School in Fredericksburg from using restrooms consistent with their gender identity. Gavin Grimm, a trans man who graduated from Gloucester County High School earlier this year, in August withdrew his request for an immediate injunction against the Gloucester County School Board’s policy prohibiting students from using bathrooms and locker rooms that don’t correspond with their “biological gender.”

A Stafford County School District spokesperson on Monday told the Blade the district “is aware” of the Snapchat posts. The spokesperson declined to say whether the district had disciplined any of the students who made them, citing privacy.

“Stafford County Public Schools is committed to the safety and well-being of all students,” said the district in a statement to the Blade. “Making our students feel welcome and safe in school is of the utmost importance.”

“SCPS is aware of the incident concerning social media and taken appropriate action, including contacting local law enforcement,” it adds. “SCPS believes in growing learners, excellence, respect, integrity, community and providing a safe and comfortable environment for all students. There is no place for hate in our school division. We will always respect and protect the rights of freedom from discrimination that are crucial for the learning environment.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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