Warren County school welcomes trans student with open arms

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At Hadley-Luzerne Senior High, you will find all kinds of students. What you will not find is a tolerance for bullies or homophobia. Just ask Grayson Barrachina.

“There are kids there who identify with what I identify with; who dress similar, who are also part of the LGBTQ+ community, and I can relate to,” Grayson said.

Grayson transferred from the Hartford School District this year, after what he calls years of bullying, abuse, and even death threats.

He is a transgender-born female but identifies as male. He said he can finally breathe again.

“As soon as I walked into the library, there was a progress/pride flag right there. I immediately have a feeling of happiness just wash over me,” Grayson said.

“We try to make our schools the safest place it can be,” Superintendent Burgess Ovitt said.

Ovitt served as Hadley-Luzerne High School principal for eight years before taking over as superintendent. He said his district follows all the state-mandated protocols, including DASA (Dignity for all Students Act).

Complaints are investigated, and disciplinary action is taken, if warranted, but Ovitt believes the key to success at Hadley-Luzerne is the kids.

He points to their 2018 “No Place for Hate” campaign at school. It was a student-driven initiative.

“The whole high school jumped on. We had some school-wide programs and have been in that for the last few years,” Ovitt said.

Signs and banners hang from the walls all over the schools.

Ovitt said an accepting environment helps all students be their best physically, emotionally, and educationally.

“If you’re not comfortable, if it’s walking across the parking lot or sitting there to learn, you’re not putting your time and your effort and your body, thoughts into that. You’re worried about something else.”

For Grayson Barrachina, bullying and intolerance have taught him some difficult lessons. He’s just relieved he has finally found a place to belong.

“That’s why I’m very appreciative and lucky.”

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The bullying was a traumatic ordeal for Grayson at the time, but bullying can have long-term effects, according to Rudy Nydegger a child psychologist.

“If children feel like there is nothing they can do, then there will be longer-term issues. The most common ones are issues involving depression or anxiety or both,” Nydegger said.

Grayson said he struggles with both.

Superintendent Ovitt believes students will never reach their full learning potential unless they feel like they are in a safe environment, something Nydegger echoes.

“They’re not going to be as effective learners in school. Even if they are still making good grades, I can assure you that they are not learning as much or sufficiently as they would,” Nydegger said.

There will be an anti-bias training at Hadley-Luzerne on Friday.