Texas AG Who Deemed Trans Youth Healthcare ‘Child Abuse’ Says School District’s ‘Pride Week’ Illegal
22:05 GMT 24.03.2022 (Updated: 19:37 GMT 03.11.2022)
The Republican attorney general of Texas, Ken Paxton, was recently censured on Twitter after attacking US Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine for being transgender. Twitter declined to remove the post, however, arousing additional outrage.
Paxton is back in the news amid the struggle for LGBTQ rights in the Lone Star State, telling a school district on Tuesday that its “Pride Week” events are in violation of Texas law.
The Austin Independent School District (AISD) in the state’s capital city is hosting events from March 21-26 “to highlight the district's commitment to creating a safe, supportive and inclusive environment,” according to its website, which notes the scheduling “aligns with the National LGBT Health Awareness Week.”
“Each campus will receive an inspiration guide of suggested activities for PRIDE Week. Campuses are encouraged to plan activities that engage, educate and inspire,” the website says, laying out a rough daily schedule of events about LGBTQ history, a “know your rights” lesson, and events to encourage the celebration of differences and self-expression.
In a Tuesday letter to AISD superintendent Stephanie Elizalde, however, Paxton characterized the event as “a week-long instructional effort in human sexuality without parental consent.”
“Or, worse, your district is cynically pushing a week-long indoctrination of your students that not only fails to obtain parental consent, but subtly cuts parents out of the loop,” he complained. “Either way, you are breaking state law.”
Today, I sent a letter to @AustinISD for their curriculum and lesson plans that constitute “human sexuality instruction” governed by state law.— Texas Attorney General (@TXAG) March 22, 2022
The Texas Legislature has made it clear that when it comes to sex education, parents—not school districts—are in charge. pic.twitter.com/pVZ4Sj8GMF
A new state law passed last year made Texas just one of five US states with an “opt-in” requirement for students by their parents for all sex education. Further, teachers are required to promote abstinence over all other forms of contraception, and the Texas State Board of Education rejected proposals to include lessons for LGBTQ people.
Elizalde quickly replied, tweeting at Paxton that “I want all our LGBTQIA+ students to know that we are proud of them and that we will protect them against political attacks.”
AISD spokesperson Jason Stanford told The Washington Post that Paxton, a Republican, was motivated by a desire to appear more conservative than George P. Bush, who has challenged him in upcoming Republican Primary elections in May.
“This is not a parental rights issue,” Stanford noted. “This is a ‘Ken Paxton trying to score political points’ issue.”
The spokesperson added that the district would react by “doubling down” on its pro-LGBTQ events.
Last month, Paxton, who has been under an indictment since 2015 for securities fraud from activities he engaged in prior to taking office, penned a personal opinion stating that healthcare given to transgender children that affirms their gender identity is “child abuse”. Republican Governor Greg Abbott subsequently directed the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services to begin investigating parents of trans kids. Trans people and their families fear the probes will lead to trans children being taken from their families and forced to detransition, causing many to label the policy a “genocide.”
A Texas judge recently ordered the practice halted and subsequent challenges to the injunction by Paxton’s office have been rebuffed by the courts.
A wave of bills have been introduced by members of the Republican party into state legislatures in recent years targeting the rights of LGBTQ youth, and a majority of these GOP-sponsored bills have focused specifically on transgender youth. These bills variously seek to ban trans girls from girls’ bathrooms and sports teams and to bar access to affirming healthcare such as hormone blockers or replacement therapy. According to the national LGBTQ rights advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, more than 160 such bills have been introduced by Republican lawmakers into state legislatures in this year alone.
One recently passed GOP-led bill in Florida has drawn particular ire. Dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the measure would stop teachers for kindergarten and grades 1-3 from discussing gender identities and same-sex marriages, including their own or their students. Students have protested against the bill, US President Joe Biden has spoken out against it, and corporate media giant Disney has denounced it.