As Pride Week gets underway in one Texas school district, the state’s attorney general has declared the whole event illegal.
In a stern letter to the Austin Independent School District – which he also posted on Twitter – Attorney General Ken Paxton said the week-long celebration of LGBTQ students violates state laws against teaching “human sexuality” without parents’ permission.
“By hosting ‘Pride Week,’ your district has, at best, undertaken a week-long instructional effort in human sexuality without parental consent,” the Republican AG wrote on Tuesday. “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. Either way, you are breaking state law.”
The Austin Independent School District describes its Pride Week as “a time to highlight the district’s commitment to creating a safe, supportive and inclusive environment” for LGBTQ students. The district suggests Pride activities for schools to administer, and provides “swag” such as flags, stickers, and buttons.
Mr Paxton said this must all come to an end.
“I encourage you to take immediate action to rectify this situation,” the attorney general wrote.
Soon after Mr Paxton tweeted his letter, the school district’s superintendent fired back.
“I want all our LGBTQIA+ students to know that we are proud of them and that we will protect them against political attacks,” tweeted Dr Stephanie Elizalde.
A spokesperson for the district, Jason Stanford, was equally defiant.
“We’re going to react to this by doubling down on making sure our kids feel safe and celebrating Pride,” Mr Stanford told The Washington Post.
Beto O’Rourke, a Democratic candidate for governor of Texas, obliquely criticised the letter as well.
“I’ll always prioritize the health, safety, and success of EVERY child in Texas,” Mr O’Rourke tweeted. In the same post, he included a clip of a speech in which he accused Texas’ leadership of “attacking those transgender kids and their families who are navigating some really tough issues in their lives.”
This is not the first time Mr Paxton, who serves under Republican governor Greg Abbott, has targeted LGBTQ students. Last month, the AG wrote in another letter that gender-affirming care for trans children is “child abuse.”
“Sex-change operations and puberty blockers prescribed to kids is ‘child abuse’ under Texas law,” Mr Paxton said in a tweet unveiling the opinion. “These procedures are monstrous and tragic. I’ll do everything I can to protect against those who take advantage of and harm young Texans.”
Soon after that, Governor Abbott ordered Texas’ child services department to investigate any parents suspected of such “abuse.” On 11 March, a Texas judge temporarily blocked the new policy.
The Independent has reached out to Mr Paxton’s office for comment.