Paso Robles High School students led a forum Wednesday evening discussing LGBTQ+ issues at the school.
A viral video on TikTok last month showed students from Paso Robles High School defecating on a pride flag taken from a teacher’s classroom.
The recent administrative decision to not allow full-size flags nor American flags that have been altered in the school leaves many students feeling hurt and as if their community is being ignored.
Students shared how they have been treated at the community forum Wednesday evening, telling stories of hurt, discrimination and pain.
One Paso Robles High School student, Sprout Aragon, even expressed concerns about physical violence being used against her in retaliation to speaking out tonight.
"I feel ashamed to call myself a Bearcat when my school did absolutely nothing about this situation other than taking away the symbol of my wonderful community," said Paso Robles High School student, Sprout Aragon.
"I am terrified of getting hurt because of my identity," said Lillian Shroyer, a Student at Paso Robles High School.
"When I still identified as a gay man, I was called slurs by a few of my male peers," said Quinn Calvo, a Student at Paso Robles High School.
"We've been silenced, despised, vandalized, but no one cares how it hurts in our eyes," said Elise, a Student at Paso Robles High School.
"Just know that you are not alone," said Emily Neri, a Student at Paso Robles High School.
"I don't know if I'll be beaten up or if my life will be taken or be threatened because I am transgender," said Aragon.
Students feel that the district's response to the situation is inadequate.
"Seeing the like responses to it and the way that the district handled it I was heartbroken. I didn't imagine that anything that bad would happen in Paso Robles or in California at a public school anyways," said Ava Hughes, a Student at Paso Robles High School.
Leaving students wondering how they can move forward and create a more inclusive environment.
"I believe that with just the right amount of education and maybe cracking down on the punishments a little harder would prevent something like this from happening again," said Neri.
"Whatever they did to the students who were committing the crime was not big enough that they couldn't act again," said Hughes.
Paso Robles High School Principal, Anthony Overton, recently sent an email to students, staff and families addressing an incident in which a rainbow pride mask was desecrated. The email encouraged parents to talk with their children about the impact of their words and actions and encouraged the community to do better.
Paso Robles High School English teacher, Haley Talbert, says teachers were given vague communication about what happened and what disciplinary actions were taken in regards to the video of the pride flag being vandalized, and the response to the desecration of a rainbow mask wasn't much different.
"Do better- is essentially what the email boiled down to. So it was still very vague," said Haley Talbert, a Teacher at Paso Robles High School.
Though the school's administrative response to these incidents did not make LGBTQ+ students feel supported, Talbert is determined to do better.
"You have so many teachers who love and support you and care so much and our rooms are always open. We will make this a better place together," said Talbert.