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AG Paxton Reprimands Texas School District for ‘Pride Week’ in Letter

Education, Featured

Close-up of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. | Image by Marjorie Kamys Cotera, The Texas Tribune

Moms for Liberty is glad that Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a letter of reprimand to Austin Independent School District about their events held this week in observance of gay pride in schools, including elementary campuses.

“That is not what schools are intended for,” said Mary D. Lowe, Tarrant County Chair of Moms for Liberty. “That is social imprinting.”

Lowe was reacting to Austin ISD hosting Pride Week events on school campuses to normalize LGBTQIA+ issues to all age groups.

The week-long initiative ends with a ‘pride out’ party on Saturday, March 26, according to Paxton’s March 22 letter addressed to Austin ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde.

“The kids are all waving the multicolored flag,” Lowe told The Dallas Express. “They’ve removed the Pledge of Allegiance so that we’re not utilizing the Pledge of Allegiance and yet we have a parade with these children to teach them to be proud of gender fluidity.”

Although Lowe praised Paxton for issuing the letter, she believes more action should be taken.

“We wish he would be more proactive,” Lowe said in an interview. “Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Gov. Abbott need to call that fourth special session so that we can get laws on the books that prevent educators from exposing children to material that is age-inappropriate.”

According to the letter, after just one full day of Pride Week, by Wednesday, March 23, Paxton’s office had received reports of community circles and group discussions on sensitive topics that students were allegedly encouraged to keep confidential from parents.

“The Texas legislature has made it clear that when it comes to sex education, parents, not school districts are in charge,” Paxton wrote.

Elizalde responded to Paxton’s letter with a post on Twitter this week stating, “I want all our LGBTQIA+ students to know that we are proud of them and that we will protect them against political attacks.”

Angel Simone, a 39-year-old Flower Mound transgender woman, contends that an elementary school is a place for education.

“I think in some ways [Pride Week] could have been a distraction from schoolwork but then again, it’s no different than when a school has spirit days and people dress up for that,” Simone told The Dallas Express. “That young, I was in school to learn and make friends.”

“[Pride Week] can be informative but, being about sexuality, it’s hard to put things in [a] context that is appropriate for children that young,” Simone added. “I think there could have been a possibility that I may have come out as transgender a lot younger if I had experienced that in elementary school.”

As previously reported in The Dallas Express, Simone began her transition at 33 years old by socially transitioning in September 2014. Over the next 7 years, she elected to receive hormones and undergo two surgeries as part of the transitioning process.

Paxton’s letter encouraging Elizalde to rectify ‘pride events’ was written on behalf of parents and includes instructions on how parents can complain to the school board and the Texas Education Agency.

According to Education Code Section 28.004 (i-2), before a student may be provided with human sexuality instruction, a school district must obtain the student’s parent’s written consent.

“It’s very confusing to children to hear one message at school and another message at home or differing messages,” Lowe added. “We just believe that gender is not physically questionable and certainly not at that age — we’re talking about second graders and first graders participating in this.”

Paxton informed Elizalde that the district had violated the Education Code in his letter.

“Your district has at best undertaken a week-long instructional effort in human sexuality without parental consent,” the letter states. “Based on your violation, objecting parents can file grievances with your school board pursuant to the grievance policy your district is required to maintain under Education Code Section 26.011. Additionally, parents may file complaints with the Texas Education Agency.”

However, Austin ISD took the Attorney General’s warning in stride.

“We aren’t worried about Paxton’s letter,” said Eddie Villa, media relations specialist in the Austin ISD Department of Communications & Community Engagement. “Pride Week and sex education are different. Celebrating diversity and acceptance is completely legal.”

Rev. Charles Johnson, executive director of Pastors for Texas Children, sees Paxton’s letter as a perfect example of government overreach.

“The Attorney General has no jurisdiction over Austin ISD,” Johnson told The Dallas Express. “He’s a citizen just like the Austin ISD superintendent, just like me and everyone else. Once again, he’s exercising big government overreach and top-down centralized power. The attorney general spurns the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Texas at every turn. He’s wrong.”

Johnson added that it is essential for neighborhood and community public schools to teach morality, decency, and a healthy positive concept of human sexuality.

“That is what Austin ISD is doing abundantly successfully and anybody who claims the contrary is lying for political gain,” he said in an interview. “Last I checked, Texas is a conservative limited government state that believes in local control.”

Children will not become gay by observing ‘pride’ celebrations or events, according to Jessica Bundage, a program coordinator with Children at Risk.

“Kids don’t look that deeply into things,” Bundage told The Dallas Express. “They may have questions, but they’re just parades. It’s just like having Mardi Gras or Rodeo Day. Go Texan Day isn’t going to make a kid a cowboy. It’s just something they celebrate and just because you experience something, it doesn’t mean it’s going to have this permanent lifelong effect on you. That’s not how it works at all.”

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