What could a Florida-style law mean for Austin ISD and its Pride Week?

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Independent School District officials said they’ve made inclusivity a priority when it comes to their young learners, pointing to the recent Pride Week celebration.

“We want to make sure all students feel welcome when they’re in our classrooms,” AISD spokesman Eduardo Villa said.

Now, Texas Lt. gov. Dan Patrick wants to make parental rights a priority when it comes to LGBTQIA+ issues in the classroom. Patrick announced this week he wants a Texas version of a newly-signed law set to take effect in Florida this July.

Under the legislation — dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law by critics — Florida schools will be barred from talking about sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

AISD officials told KXAN on Tuesday with no bill on the table yet in Texas, they couldn’t comment on how a similar law could impact the district, known to be one of the most progressive in the state.

When it comes to Pride Week, AISD said though the weeklong festivities feature lessons on acceptance and inclusivity, the event doesn’t meet the definition of curriculum, and despite concerns raised by some parents and the Texas Attorney General, support for Pride Week has been overwhelming since its inception in 2014.

“The majority of parents like it,” Villa said. “That’s a leading factor of why we have it.”

As for the Texas version of the Florida bill, Patrick announced Monday it would be on the agenda for next January’s legislative session now nine months away.

The head of the conservative nonprofit Texas Values ​​said he looks forward to the debate.

“Moms and dads, not teachers and administrators know their children best,” said Texas Values ​​Policy Director Jonathan Covey. “We have some laws in the State of Texas already protecting parental rights, and we also have some weak areas that need to be shored up.”

The progressive Texas Freedom Network said it’s been monitoring what’s been happening in Florida and saw this coming.

“As soon as we hear about something that’s bubbling up in another state, and then it gets legs, we suspect it might happen here,” Director of Programs Marti Bier told KXAN.

“It’s helpful, I’m sure to frame this as parents’ rights,” they added. “But we all know that this is about attacking a community that is already under attack, that is already stigmatized.”

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