Texas Governor Greg Abbott signaled a willingness to follow Florida’s lead and pass legislation in the upcoming 2023 legislative session prohibiting discussions of so-called “gender fluidity” ideology in public schools.
Abbott dipped his toe into what has been an ongoing debate in state and national politics by tweeting a Fox News article on a Fort Worth middle school teacher who identifies as non-binary and shared through TikTok a preference for being referred to as “Mx.” by students as opposed to “Ms.”
“Our schools are for education, not indoctrination. We will put a stop to this nonsense in the upcoming legislative session,” Abbott tweeted with the article. “Schools must get back to fundamentals & stop pushing woke agendas. We will pass laws to get it done.”
The teacher, Kelsey McCracken, teaches math at W.A. Meacham Middle School. According to reports, McCracken allegedly bragged on TikTok about “indoctrinating the youth” in class while admitting that some colleagues have been less accepting.
“For me, the students are amazing about it. Pretty much all of my students call me ‘Mx.’ or call me by my first name,” McCracken said in her post. “There are some [staff] around the school who still call me ‘Ms.’ I just don’t have the energy or effort to correct them.”
After facing some scrutiny from TikTok users for insisting that students use a special honorific (Mx.), McCracken decided to “ask the kids’ opinion” on the issue.
“Does calling me ‘Mx.’ make you confused? Does me going by ‘Mx.’ make y’all confused about yourselves? That’s interesting,” McCracken said.
McCracken’s choice of honorific in an official capacity as the educator of young students is a prime example of the ongoing debate about what is appropriate in Texas schools and how much latitude teachers have in bringing their personal identity and politics into their classrooms.
When asked about the reporting on McCracken, Barbara Griffith, Fort Worth ISD spokesman, said that the district had already “addressed the incident when it took place in August 2022,” and provided no further comment.
The Dallas Express reported that Keller Independent School District, which is only a half hour from Fort Worth, where McCracken teaches, recently adopted additional guidelines for books and materials in its schools that prohibit the inclusion of “gender fluidity” topics at all grade levels.
The move has been condemned by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, which claimed in a tweet the policy decision sought “to erase transgender and non-binary identity.”
ACLU-Texas joined numerous LGBT organizations in a letter to the U.S. Department of Education requesting an investigation into the district for civil rights violations.
Abbott would be following the lead of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who earlier this year shepherded through his State Legislature HB 1557, which “prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through 3rd grade and prohibits instruction that is not age appropriate for students and requires school districts to adopt procedures for notifying parents if there is a change in services from the school regarding a child’s mental, emotional or physical health or well-being.”
Critics, like the National Education Association, have called the bill the “Don’t Say Gay” law, because of the limitations it places on discussing sexual orientation and gender identity with children between the ages of 5 and 8.
Local education groups are likewise not pleased with the governor’s indication of passing a Florida-style law in Texas. The president of the Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, Zeph Capo, said that Abbott is on a “quest to invent controversy” in schools.
“Greg Abbott has underfunded our schools and made them less safe,” Capo said in a statement to local media. “And he makes them even more dangerous for teachers and their LGBTQIA+ students when he uses his platform to spread this hurtful nonsense.”