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Last month, when students in certain large school districts held protests against legislation that favored parental rights in education and less indoctrination — as well as legislation banning sex changes on kids and requiring bathroom use to be based on biology in Iowa schools — the mantra from the Left was these protests were “student-led.”

Were they?

Maybe in some districts.

But a records request in the Ames School District suggests it may not have completely been “student-led.”

On Feb. 23, an English teacher at Ames High School called Alex Grapp sent the following email to students.

“Hey folks – Check out this post: https://www.instagram.com/p/Co729deOMGo/?hl=en Looks like a student organization called Iowa QSA is organizing it: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAlpQLSe3DL9hipf4PE40sn0Gs8J3uXLUjXHx-bWDWsdymXOtvphow/viewform.

“Wanted to make sure you all saw it. I know that Spectrum leaders had talked about some kind of walkout. It’s next week, so that might be challenging, but I wanted to make sure you saw it and at least got a chance to think about if it’s something the club is interested in.”

Grapp’s preferred pronouns, based on his email signature, are he/him.

Now that email certainly calls into question how “student-led” the walkout in Ames may have been.

Five days later, Grapp wrote to a handful of students:

“Hey folks, I need you four to work together to plan out the agenda for the walkout tomorrow – come up with a list of speakers, some chants, some information. I know (student name redacted) wants to speak, and I know (student name redacted) wanted to say some things, too!”

That same day, Feb. 28, Grapp wrote on a Google Classroom document that the school isn’t allowed to say or promote anything about the walkout for “legal reasons.”

“So we’re gonna need to get attention and participation through word of mouth alone,” he wrote. “So invite your friends, see if you can gather support and get everyone on board. We’d love to have anyone who’ll come support us, so share away by talking to people or on social media!”

Grapp said the group was shooting for March 1 to be the walkout date and noted it would take place in front of the school.

“But we’re still hashing things out with administration so details like exactly where and when are up in the air at the moment,” he wrote.

Also included was a Google Form sent on a statewide level for those who are participating in protests or walkouts for the legislation. The form was sent out by Iowa WTF and Queer Student Alliance.

Grapp also shared a sign up for walkout speakers.

Finally, Grapp noted they were discussing getting documentation of the walkout for the Ames Tribune and Des Moines Register for publication and news’ sake.

An individual called Yonas Michael, who lists his preferred pronouns as he, him and his, serves as the Ames Middle School Principal. Michael was asked on Feb. 28 by a student if the middle school could walkout over House File 8 and House File 9 like the high school. The student was told to talk with Michael by a counselor at the school called Rachel Krofta.

Michael told the student he would “love to support your efforts to bring attention to these important issues affecting our students, staff and community.”

On March 1, at 8:36 a.m., Grapp sent a message to students wishing luck for the walkout.

“You’ve got this!!!!,” he wrote.

He then included a list of people who signed up to talk.

“I secured a megaphone, too – you have to speak right into it, but it works! I’ll give it to (student’s redacted name) during lunch. (Student redacted name) and (student redacted name) brought signs to distribute.”

On March 2, at 12:56 p.m., Grapp wrote a note of congratulations to students on the “awesome walkout.”

“Your action was part of a huge network of schools across Iowa,” he wrote. “I wanted to invite you to have a conversation about the walkout on Tuesday morning, March 7 at 8 a.m. during our club meeting. If you can make it, I’d just like to lead a conversation about how the walkout went; what did you notice, what went well, what could go better, etc. Thank you all for using your voice. It matters. I’m proud of you!”

On March 9, at 3:35 p.m., Grapp wrote a message about the “anti-trans” laws and legislation being considered in Iowa.

“Hearing about these bills is going to be a lot for us – it’s going to hit some of our community in Spectrum pretty hard,” he wrote to the students. “We are a community, and we have to stick together…A queer friend of mine told me recently that there are people in this world who want to take our joy away – and that if we let them, they have won. To be totally honest with all of you, it’s hard to see the joy in what’s happening right now. But I’ve had glimpses of that joy watching you all organize a walkout, attend protests, plan fundraising opportunities and advocating for yourselves and your fundamental right to be you — fully and unapologetically you. Please take time to rest, to recover, to check in on friends and find moments of laughter and happiness. Because that’s a form of fighting back, too.”

In late March, Michael sent an email to staff regarding a planned walkout for March 22 that school staff must remain “content matter and viewpoint neutral while working at school.” It’s hard to imagine how Graff’s emails behind the scenes at school are “content matter and viewpoint neutral.”

Spectrum hosted the walkout right before spring break. According to a counselor called John Burke, more than 150 students attended.


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