The battle over sex and sexuality in schools is reaching new extremes. As noted in a previous article, much of the conflict is driven by a lack of mutual trust between schools and the parents of the students they teach. Two recent examples from Texas show that the overreach of conservative government officials is also at the root of the conflict.
In many places, parents do not trust school authorities to be honest with them when it comes to their children. One particular incident in Loudoun County took on particular significance and played a significant role in Glenn Youngkin’s upset victory in the race for governor of Virginia. In 2021, a 14-year-old Loudoun County girl was sexually assaulted in a girl’s bathroom by a boy wearing a skirt. There was a lot of noise that the assault was the result of the school’s pro-trans policy regarding bathroom use. Senator Tom Cotton claimed the girl: ‘was raped in a bathroom by a boy wearing girls’ clothes and the school board covered it up because it would interfere with their transgender policy during Pride month “. That’s probably not true. In fact, the school district‘s inclusive restroom policies weren’t even in place at the time of the assault.
What is true, however, is that the parents had reason to believe the district covered up the assault. According to the hill“An email to school board members from Superintendent Scott Ziegler shows[ed] that he was aware of the alleged attack a month before denying any knowledge of it.
This incident fueled parents’ concerns that they were being kept informed of all sorts of sex and sexuality issues, from the possibility of teaching inappropriate material to young children to concern that their children were being encouraged change their gender identity. It is very difficult to know to what extent, if any, this was actually happening, but parents demanded laws that gave them more control, or at least awareness, of what is taught in schools. . This has given rise to laws such as Florida’s “don’t say gay” law and a Texas law that requires that “before a student may receive instruction in human sexuality, a school district must obtain consent written by the student’s parent.
Reasonable people can debate what input parents should have on their child’s sex education, but the Texas Attorney General has added fuel to the fire by interpreting Texas law in an extremely broad way. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote a letter last week to the Austin Independent School District warning them that their celebration of Pride Week is illegal. He mentioned the school’s community talking circles in which students were encouraged to discuss issues of sexuality and were expected to keep everything said confidential.
Like Florida law, Texas law only requires parental consent to instruction, which is obviously different from student discussions. But Attorney General Paxton considers student discussion to be a form of teaching and therefore covered by state law. Blurring the line between what a teacher says to students and what students say to each other would have far-reaching consequences. Can students still discuss religion among themselves, for example?
Meanwhile, The Los Angeles Blade just reported that a North Texas school principal told school librarians to remove books about trans people from library shelves, resulting in the removal of a thirty pounds. According to The Blade, the superintendent told the librarians, “Specifically what we’re getting at, let’s call it what it is, and I’m going hunting for a lot of stuff.” It’s transgender, LGBTQ, and sex—sexuality—in the books. That’s why the governor said he would sue people, and that’s what we’re taking back.
The Blade also quoted the Superintendent as saying, “And I’m going to go deeper with you. There are two kinds. There is a male and there is a female. And I recognize that there are men who think they are women. And there are women who think they are men. And again, I have no problem with what people want to believe, but there’s no room for that in our libraries.
Thus, conservative parents do not trust schools to protect their children or to keep them informed about what they are teaching their children about sex and sexuality. And progressive parents certainly don’t trust conservative state governments to be anything but extreme in regulating discussion of LGBTQ issues in school.
In short, no one trusts anyone. If parents, teachers, and government officials cannot begin to communicate with each other more openly and honestly, the situation will likely continue to escalate.