Kansas High School Students Defend Transgender Band Director Against Hate Group

Westboro Baptist Church inspired a rainbow-colored twist on an annual tradition.

A Kansas high school found a festive way to support transgender teacher Stephanie Byers after Westboro Baptist Church announced plans to picket the school, the Wichita Eagle reports.

Byers, 55, Wichita North High School’s longtime band and orchestra director, was recently named National Educator of the Year by GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network.

As per tradition, North High seniors toilet-paper the campus to celebrate their last day of school. This year, in anticipation of the Topeka-based anti-LGBT hate group’s protest, students papered the campus in rainbow colors.

North High principal Sherman Padgett urged students and staff members to ignore WBC protestors. Students instead tweeted photos and video of the rainbow-strewn campus with hashtags such as #LoveTrumpsHate.

The theme for Friday’s senior pep assembly, scheduled for the same time as WBC’s planned protest, was also declared “rainbow.”

“North High is very accepting and accommodating, and it’s one of the things I love most about that school,” says one North High mother.

After more than two decades at North High, Byers came out as transgender in 2014. “Instead of Mr. Byers, I’m now Ms. Byers,” she told her classes. “Now, let’s talk about what our goals are for this semester and this school year.”

“You don’t have to understand if somebody is transgender or not,” Byers later explained. “Just be kind. Be polite. Be nice. Let them be themselves.”

Padgett said he nominated Byers for the GLSEN award because she’s “just an all-around great teacher and a great person.”

Byers and wife Lori Haas, a marriage and family therapist, present regular “Trans 101” workshops for behavioral health professionals and are developing an educational training program with their local GLSEN chapter.

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