Austin ISD is again at odds with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton over its annual Pride Week celebration, an event that has taken place for nine years and counting, as the district remains committed to continuing the tradition.
Pride Week in AISD is a series of events celebrating LGBTQIA+ students. The event is scheduled to align with National LGBTQ Health Awareness Week, and daily themes include Know Your Rights, Pride History, and creative expression. The week culminates with a “PRIDE OUT!” party on Saturday, and many secondary campuses held festivities of their own at the end of the week to celebrate inclusivity and acceptance.
Paxton asserts that AISD must have permission from parents prior to any instruction regarding human sexuality. In a letter sent to superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde, he stated that Pride Week breaks state law because “when it comes to sex education, parents—not school districts—are in charge.”
Elizalde responded with a public statement, declaring that “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. We are ALL Austin ISD. We embrace diversity.” Her statement is clearly a response to the Texas legislature’s recent restrictions on LGBTQ rights and its attack on trans youth and their families.
As a parent in Austin ISD, I can attest to the fact that Pride Week is not a sex education week but a community-building week, embracing love and respect for all students in our community and celebrating those who identify as LGBTQIA+. Furthermore, Austin ISD sent communications to families well in advance of Pride Week, outlining the planned activities and how each grade level at each campus would be involved. Parents had ample opportunity to opt their children out of any events or discussions if they so desired.
However, I think the most important thing to note is that, according to district spokesperson Cristina Nguyen, it has not received any complaints from parents in Austin. The only negative responses have all come from outside of the AISD community.
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