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Texas attorney general says Austin school Pride Week celebration breaks state law

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 1, 2021. Paxton said a week-long celebration of Pride events in Austin this week violated state law.
Drew Angerer
Getty Images
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 1, 2021. Paxton said a week-long celebration of Pride events in Austin this week violated state law.

An annual Pride Week celebration in Austin schools is breaking state law, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said this week, marking the state's latest move to confront LGBTQ rights. Austin's school district said the events will nevertheless continue.

Every year, the Austin Independent School District plans a series of events to celebrate LGBTQIA+ students, highlighting "the district's commitment to creating a safe, supportive and inclusive environment."

The events this year started Monday and culminate Saturday with a "PRIDE OUT!" party. Each day of the week is assigned a theme, including knowing your rights, creative expression and Pride history. Pride and ally stickers and flags are handed out as well. The events line up with National LGBTQ Health Awareness Week.

But on Tuesday, Paxton sent a letter to Stephanie Elizalde, the superintendent of the Austin Independent School District.

"The Texas Legislature has made it clear that when it comes to sex education, parents—not school districts—are in charge," he wrote.

Paxton said the school district must obtain parental permission before any student is subject to instruction regarding human sexuality.

"By hosting 'Pride Week,' your district has, at best, undertaken 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," Paxton said. "Either way, you are breaking state law."

Paxton said that parents can file complaints against the school district with the school board and the Texas Education Agency.

On Thursday, Elizalde released a statement to the school community, noting that Pride month takes place in June, when schools are on summer break.

"Here at Austin ISD, we celebrate Pride during every school year so our LGBTQIA+ students know how much they are valued and loved. This year, it's important to me personally that they know they are respected and safe, too, and lest anyone have any doubt, that absolutely goes for our trans kids," she said. "We are ALL Austin ISD. We embrace diversity."

The school district says the Pride events will continue as scheduled through the rest of the week.

In recent months, the Texas legislature, Paxton and Gov. Greg Abbott have doubled down on restricting LGBTQ rights and have particularly targeted trans youth.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Deepa Shivaram
Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.

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