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Lake Braddock Secondary School (via Google Maps)

An anonymous Instagram account that attacked LGBTQ students at Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke has been shut down and the perpetrator identified, Principal Daniel W. Smith said in a message to the school community yesterday (Tuesday).

The now-deleted account surfaced Monday afternoon (March 7) with photos of students identified as members of the LGBTQ community and demeaning captions, screenshots show.

The bio said that the account was “owned and operated by the Lake Braddock Gimmick Association” and contained homophobic and transphobic language.

According to Smith, administrators worked with Lake Braddock’s cybersecurity team to get the account taken down and identify its creator, apparently a student.

“I am deeply troubled that any student at Lake Braddock feels that this is acceptable behavior. This is not the kind of school community we seek to cultivate,” Smith said, stating that “appropriate disciplinary action” will be taken in accordance with Fairfax County Public Schools policies.

While screenshots suggest the account had limited reach, it contributed to an unsafe school environment for LGBTQIA+ students, including intersex and asexual and agender individuals, the Pride Liberation Project — an advocacy group of queer and allied FCPS students — said in a statement released yesterday morning.

The group urged FCPS to take action by investigating the account, condemning it and making the consequences for harassment clear, and ensuring access to mental health supports for all students, particularly those at Lake Braddock.

FCPS has prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity since 2015. The school board adopted a regulation in July affirming transgender and gender-expansive students’ right to be identified by their chosen name and pronouns, and to use facilities that match their identity.

Even with those supportive policies, though, LGBTQIA+ students in FCPS continue to report “elevated” levels of harassment and bullying, Pride Liberation Project student leader Aaryan told FFXnow.

Fairfax County’s most recent annual youth survey, published in October 2020, found that of the 17% of teens who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or questioning, 21% reported experiencing bullying and 11% said they experienced cyberbullying — higher rates than those reported by non-LGBQ students.

“In general, FCPS LGBTQIA+ students have reported experiencing high levels of harassment at school, such as the frequent use of slurs,” the Pride Liberation Project said. “However, this is one of the most targeted attack[s] that has occurred against LGBTQIA+ students.”

Aaryan says the Instagram account also appeared at a time of “elevated rates of anxiety and stress” for many students amid a national wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation, from Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill and bans on transgender youth participating in sports to efforts to prohibit and criminalize gender confirmation surgery.

In his message, Smith said he will meet with LGBTQIA+ student groups this week “to listen, learn and continue the dialogue around their experiences in our school community.”

“I ask you to engage in a conversation with your student about our expectations for behavior that contributes to our shared vision here at Lake Braddock, and to continue these critical conversations about respect, kindness and acceptance in our community,” Smith said. “Our students can make a difference in this world by learning to embrace our differences instead of using them to divide us.”

Photo via Google Maps

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