SOUTH GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A transgender student involved in a dispute over seating on a school bus says the incident changed their life.
A freshman at South Glens Falls Senior High School is now living their truth after a dispute on a bus encouraged them to come out. The encounter was caught on camera.
“I started to panic,” they said. “I freaked out because I didn’t know what I was going to do.”
Layla Sweenor, who goes by Aaren, had never been in the position before of having to choose to sit with the girls or the boys. It’s what the bus driver asked them to do, but that was a problem since Sweenor identifies as non-binary transgender.
“It was very scary to me,” they said. “I was out to the school but not to any family members.”
Sweenor, who uses the pronouns they and them, had to decide to come out or stay in the closet. Sweenor, along with a transgender friend, chose to sit with the boys, but the driver would not relent.
Sweenor felt urged to speak up.
“I hear and I understand what you’re trying to say, but I am more comfortable on this side as a trans individual, and I am going to stay on this side,” they said.
The driver then told them to either sit on the girls side or get off the bus. They got off concerned for their safety.
The South Glens Falls Central School District superintendent told NEWS10 ABC he doesn’t condone the driver’s behavior and viewed the incident as a learning opportunity for staff and students.
“I’m very impressed and thankful for the way my school has reacted to this,” Sweenor said.
Sweenor believes the bus driver may not have done what he did with a little education.
“I don’t hate the bus driver for what he did,” they said. “I believe a lot of instances like this come from a place of ignorance.”
While Sweenor wishes it didn’t happen, they’re happy to now be out in the open.
“Some kids are gonna see that, and they’re going to understand that those feelings are valid and that they’re not alone,” they said.
The superintendent said all staff was taught how to create a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination at the beginning of the month, but they also plan to schedule more gender sensitivity training.