How can students in Texas feel safe when the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services has the power to pull transgender students out of the classroom to interrogate them?
Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott can’t be bothered to comment or acknowledge students when they’re gunned down in their classrooms, as we saw with his lackluster response to the massacre in Uvalde in May. But when it comes to challenging his constituents’ rights to gender-affirming health care, he’s all in.
Last month, a 13-year-old transgender student was yanked out of his classroom and into a conference room with Texas officials, who interrogated him for nearly an hour, The Washington Post reports.
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In June, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit challenging Abbott’s directive to investigate families under potential child abuse charges if they dare to support their trans adolescents by allowing them to receive safe, age-appropriate gender-affirming health care. The lawsuit seeks to stop the state from investigating families who are members of PFLAG, an LGBTQ+ advocacy organization, Daily Kos’ Marissa Higgins wrote.
The teen’s questioning will add to the building evidence in the existing lawsuit against the state.
It was Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton who first suggested that health care, like hormone therapy, “legally constitutes" child abuse under “several provisions” of Texas state law. “I’ll do everything I can to protect against those who take advantage of and harm young Texans,” Paxton said in a news release about his nonbinding legal opinion—which led Abbott to send the dogs after transgender youth and their families.
According to the Post, Judge Amy Clark Meachum in July “granted an order halting probes into two of the three listed plaintiffs listed in the June lawsuit,” but has not yet ruled on “a request to stop investigations for the third family or additional PFLAG members.” Meachum has asked the lawyers in the case to hand over more evidence of claims of child abuse. The 13-year-old’s interview was added into evidence, alongside documentation from the case of a 14-year-old student whose parent claimed the child experienced “suicidal ideations” after being interviewed by the state.
“Instead of stopping the investigation or closing it, which is what DFPS was stating on the stand during our hearing that they were going to do, they’re in essence doing the opposite: Laying eyes on one family and opening an investigation into another one,” Lambda Legal senior attorney Shelly Skeen told the Post.
The mother of the 13-year-old teen, identified by the Post under the pseudonym Steve Koe, says her son has suffered immensely after being questioned and no longer feels that being in school is safe for him.
“I don’t want other Texas families to go through a traumatic experience like ours [...] I worry that other parents will hesitate to seek out the care and support that their transgender children may need, out of fear that someone will report them to DFPS if the threat for baseless investigations remains,” the mom told the Post.