Katy Independent School District trustees narrowly voted Monday to enact several restrictions on how employees can handle gender identity matters after listening to over four hours of public testimony overwhelmingly against the measure.
In a heated 4-3 vote, Katy board members approved a new policy that requires district employees to inform parents if a student requests to “be identified as transgender, change his or her name, or use different pronouns at school,” among other mandates. The policy also requires that students use bathrooms corresponding with their sex assigned at birth, with limited exceptions.
Roughly 90 community members spoke in front of the board about the new policy, some of whom called it an “attack” on LGBTQ+ students and a “sharp turn in a dangerous direction.” A smaller share of supporters said the policy protects parents’ rights and keeps gender identity issues out of schools.
The vote is Katy’s latest move that solidifies its alignment with more-conservative voters in the nearly 90,000-student district. In recent years, the board has tackled hot-button social issues in a way that has outraged Democrat-aligned community members.
The four-page gender identity policy, released publicly one week ago, prohibits employees from asking for a student’s preferred pronouns; allows staff members to refuse a student’s request to be identified differently; and bans employees from teaching or sharing any information about “gender fluidity.”
The measure also allows Katy administrators to discipline employees that encourage students to “withhold information from their parent.” Similar policies in districts across the country have sparked a national debate over how much information teachers should be required to share with parents about a student’s gender identity.
Proponents of those policies say parents, rather than teachers, should be the sole decision-makers for their child. Critics argue schools should provide children with a safe place to express themselves, and that it can be harmful to expose a child’s gender identity to unsupportive families.
If you don’t understand why these policies are and will be harmful to LGBTQ+ students, you probably don’t know any LGBTQ+ people. Or, more accurately, none of the LGBTQ+ people who know you trust you enough to let you know this about them. The very short explanation is that any student who doesn’t want to tell their parents about their sexuality or gender identity has a reason for that decision. Nothing good will come from the school district sticking its nose into that business, but plenty of bad will. And it will be the fault and the responsibility of those four trustees.
The only silver lining here is that this was a close vote. It will only take replacing one bad trustee with someone better to make a difference. That will still take a lot of work and organization, but it’s a starting point and there’s now even more motivation to do so. Local elections matter, even more so when they’re held in May of odd-numbered years, the lowest engagement time for elections. The Chron and Reform Austin have more.