Organizing the Sept. 27 Walkout

Five minutes with Charlie Northedge

MacKenzie Bunn, News, Opinion, & Media Editor

This article briefly discusses suicide. If you or someone you know needs help, contact the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386.


Senior Charlie Northedge has been working diligently recently. Across Virginia, Northedge has organized walkouts protesting recent changes to the Model Transgender Policies, a drafted set of guidelines made by Virginia’s Department of Education.

The original policy, codified under Ralph Northam’s administration, is now facing a rollback by Governor Glenn Youngkin.

“The revisions remove students’ control of their own identity and put it into parents’ hands,” Northedge said on the edits’ impacts. “By requiring parents to control a student’s name, pronouns and gender expression, student rights are unfairly diminished.”

“Many times queer students are denied a home within their family and find a community within their school,” Northedge continued. “But with these revisions, schools will no longer be a safe and accepting place for queer communities, specifically affecting certain racial identities and classes, as proven in the Race-Class Narrative.”

Northedge particularly noted the effect the guidelines will have on students’ mental health.

No student, regardless of sexuality, can succeed when worrying about the mental health of their peers, which these policies are certain to have a negative effect on.”

— Charlie Northedge

“The possibility of being denied counseling is terrifying to many,” Northedge said. “Using a student’s true pronouns has consistently shown to prevent suicide, and one study even found that using someone’s correct name just once was associated with a 29 percent decrease in suicidal thoughts.”

Northedge has organized walkouts in 17 counties throughout the Commonwealth and across multiple schools. At Valley, she spearheaded the effort alongside Ash Woerner, Cecil Turner-Veska and the PRISM council. Within the district as a whole, she reached out to other walkout leads to lend any support necessary.

“I provided supplies, gave talking points, issued press training, notified administration, educated students on their rights and garnered press outreach,” Northedge said. “I also did this work on a lesser extent in other counties by communicating with walkout leaders and press directly.”

Northedge challenges students and staff alike to attend the Loudoun County School Board meeting at 5pm today in Ashburn. The organization Loudoun 4 All will be leading a rally to protest the regulations and protect public health. But for those who can’t attend, Northedge has some additional advice.

Northedge acknowledged how school administrators don’t have the same first amendment rights as students, and thus may not have been able to join protesters outside.

So when it comes to Valley’s staff, Northedge simply asked for their support. From championing the work of organizations like the Pride Liberation Project or Equality Loudoun, to speaking out at School Board meetings, any way administrators show that they’re there for students is welcome.

When it comes to students, the ask is similar.

“Queer or not, we ask for support and understanding,” Northedge said. “Every helping hand counts.”