Texas: The Issue Is - Katy ISD enacts new gender identity policy

The issue of school parental rights got hot when Katy ISD recently passed a new gender identity policy. 

The school board, on a very close 4 to 3 vote, decided that teachers and staff are now required to tell parents if their child wants to be identified as transgender, change their name or use different pronouns at school.  

Jonathan Sines with the conservative advocacy group Texas Values, spoke with FOX 7 Austin's Rudy Koski about how this new local policy works and if he thinks it will bring a broader legislative effort when state lawmakers return to Austin

JONATHAN SINES: Well, this is a result of parents wanting to be heard and wanting their rights to be protected. For many years you've had liberal LGBT groups, pressure groups, political advocates that have been putting pressure on the school districts and the employees to have really what are shadow policies. You're talking about teachers. Their role is not to be in some type of mental health circumstance. I mean, they have school counselors and other people to do those things. And so it's just more evidence that many teachers have transformed themselves into political advocates. They're involved in indoctrination and they don't respect parental rights. I think that puts kids at risk. 

RUDY KOSKI: Speaking of at risk, their concerns, the pushback on this is that this will lead to domestic child abuse, that the kids, once they're outed by their teacher to their parents, they're going to get hurt. Do you buy that? 

JONATHAN SINES: Well, first of all, the students are if they're involved in these things, they're talking about them to other people. You know, we've had reports to us where parents have called the school district. And when they call and talk to a school administrator, they refer to the child by one name or one pronoun. But everybody else, they refer to them differently in the school. So you've got this thing going on where they're not being honest. 

RUDY KOSKI: But do you buy the argument that this will lead to child abuse? 

JONATHAN SINES: Well, we care about all kids. Okay. So the well-being and the health and safety of children is very important to us. You have mental health providers that are involved in that. You've got school counselors. It's not necessary to lie to parents, to have kids keep secret from parents in order to address mental health issues. If anything, that pushes it more into the shadows anyway.


RUDY KOSKI: Another aspect of this policy is the protection for the school employee, that they will not get punished if they don't use the pronouns, if they don't refer to a kid by their preferred name. How big a point is that? How big is that protection? 

JONATHAN SINES: Well, look, I think what's important here is that we focus on educate, not indoctrinate. 

RUDY KOSKI: But are teachers being fired for not using preferred pronouns? 

JONATHAN SINES: And well look, we have evidence from other states already that teachers are losing their job because they're expected to adopt these pronouns and expect to even know. And that's my point. Educate, don't indoctrinate. Allow the teachers to focus on teaching and don't put them in a position where they might get punished because they don't know what a kid's pronoun is or that they're even talking about it. 

RUDY KOSKI: Katy is one of only a handful of school districts now to have this kind of policy. Do you expect the Legislature to weigh in when they come back? 

JONATHAN SINES: Well, look, I mean, there's talk that there's going be a special session in October focused on education, focused on school choice. And so you might see an opportunity where this is dealt with by the Legislature. It's been brought up before, and they have, for whatever reason, decided not to do anything. And I think that's allowed there to be, you know, the situation where school districts are like, well, can we do this? Can we not do this and sort of making these things up on their own? And I do think it's a growing trend. You've got Carroll ISD in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Keller ISD. Grapevine Colleyville. Now you've got Katy ISD. Moving back, the pendulum is swinging back and it's swinging back in the name of parental rights.

RUDY KOSKI: And another parental rights issue deals with library books and what's appropriate, what's not. New law goes into effect in September, how do you expect school districts to handle this new law? Do you expect some pushback? 

JONATHAN SINES: Well, look, there's only one thing for school districts to do on these new laws that protect kids from sexually explicit books. They only have one option. They have to follow the law. As a matter of fact, we sent a letter out to all 1200 school districts just to remind them of where the law stands and the September 1st effective date. But we know there might be some school districts that will try to avoid it. But, you know, look, if you're a school district and you ignore state law, you're going to find yourself on a lawsuit and you're not going to have any help from the attorney general's office or any state government, you're going to be out there on your own and you could end up in a position where you personally have to pay money out of your pocket when you lose.