A little over two months ago, Katy ISD passed one of the most extreme gender policies we’ve seen in Texas, effectively requiring campus personnel to “out” students. At the time, it raised eyebrows, and now we are beginning to see the ramifications for students and educators.
According to reports from Houston Landing, since August, the district has sent 19 notifications to parents informing them that their child either identified themselves as transgender or requested different names or pronouns be used at school.
Katy ISD’s policy prohibits all district personnel from diagnosing or treating “gender dysphoria” or related mental health concerns, citing that district staff are not equipped to deal with these situations. It goes on to mention that the district will only recognize a student’s biological sex, using that as the basis for interscholastic athletic teams, determining which pronouns a student should use, and using district facilities like bathrooms and locker rooms.
The policy demands that parents be notified if their child expresses such identity changes, and it requires written parental consent for compliance. Even with expressed consent, the policy outlines that “the District cannot and will not compel District staff or other students to address or refer to students in any manner that would violate the speaker’s First Amendment rights.” This renders the notification of parents useless since the Katy ISD cannot force anyone to adopt the parent’s/student’s wishes.
Additionally, Katy ISD’s policy bans the teaching of gender fluidity in the classroom. It goes as far as barring students from “borrowing” these materials from a teacher’s private collection or allowing teachers to provide outside resources for students struggling with gender identity or expression.
While the policy’s supporters claim the policy’s intent is to inform parents of the well-being of their children, there is no way of knowing how many parents were already aware of their child’s gender identity or if these children were unwillingly outed. The impacts, however, are tangible — LGBTQIA+ students feel less safe and secure within their own school environment.
As the number of notifications climbs, advocates worry about the repercussions. The policy has created a landscape of uncertainty for Katy ISD LGBTQIA+ youth, challenging their sense of safety and belonging within their own schools and pinning school teachers against their students.
“This policy, in particular, has a distinct and really dangerous set of harms,” said Chloe Kempf, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, in an interview with Houston Landing columnist Maggie Gordon. “We know that outing children against their will places them at risk of rejection, abuse in the home, and places them at an elevated risk of homelessness.”The Trevor Project reports that 28% of LGBTQIA+ young people have reported experiencing homelessness or housing instability. It takes a toll. According to the same report, 58% of those youth who reported housing instability and 62% of those who were currently homeless reported having seriously considered suicide in the last year.