Texas rights groups file legal complaint against LGBTQ+ book ban

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By CHRISTOPHER WIGGINS

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Texas (Lawyer Channel) – The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, Equality Texas, Transgender Education Network Texas and others filed a complaint with the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights on Monday, alleging Title IX violations.

The ACLU is calling for an investigation into the Keller Independent School District (Keller ISD), which banned all books depicting or referencing transgender or non-binary people earlier this month.

The ACLU said in its letter that the policy seeks to erase the existence of transgender and non-binary people.

Three conservative school board members were elected to Keller ISD’s seven-member board six months ago, resulting in Keller ISD’s anti-transgender policy. A Christian political action committee donated large sums to all new members, who campaigned on issues such as banning LGBTQ-friendly books from school libraries and banning critical theory from race, a college-level field that examines the idea that racism is embedded in institutions and legal systems. .

Education programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance are prohibited from discrimination on the basis of sex under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

“This is a time when school districts are targeting LGBTQ students and especially trans and binary students in a variety of ways, including purging books from LGBTQ inclusion shelves,” the staff attorney said. ‘ACLU of Texas, Kate Huddleston, at The Advocate. “We think it’s important for trans and non-binary students in the community to understand that there are people who support them and who believe they have a right to exist. [and access a variety of books in education] that reflect their experience,” she says.

Civil rights groups accuse the Keller ISD of allowing their personal anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments to influence their decisions to ban books and discuss anything transgender or transgender-related.

“The effect of the policy, in the absence of federal civil rights intervention, will be to stigmatize LGBTQ+ students and in particular transgender, non-binary, gender-diverse, and intersex students at Keller ISD, for uniquely denying the ability to read books that reflect their identities, and creating an environment in which unlawful discrimination flourishes,” the complaint argues.

In a contentious November 14 meeting, the Keller Independent School District Board of Trustees voted to ban any books mentioning characters or gender-neutral descriptions and discussions from all schools.

“The four school board members of the seven-member council who voted in favor of the policy showed animosity toward LGBTQ+ students, publicly making anti-LGBTQ+ comments at the board meeting where the policy has been adopted,” the complaint reads.

“This policy seeks to erase transgender and non-binary identities in particular and sends the message that transgender and non-binary students do not belong in the Keller ISD community,” he continues.

As The Advocate reported, Keller ISD directors were asked at the last minute to remove many books from classrooms and libraries on August 16.

Among the 42 books removed were the Bible, a graphic adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer: A Memoir. Since then, most books other than those dealing with LGBTQ+ themes have been put back on the shelves.

The attorney has contacted the Keller ISD for comment.

Laney Hawes is the mother of four Keller ISD students. She has been a vocal critic of school board antics and the right-wing takeover of school boards in general.

She celebrated the ACLU’s complaint.

She tweeted: “Thank you @ACLUTx!! This mom of 4 students @KellerISD couldn’t be more grateful!

She tells The Advocate that although she is not involved in the case, she has been in contact with Equality Texas and the ACLU of Texas.

“We are pleased !” she exclaimed. “Word got out last night and spread like wildfire through our school media groups and text feeds.”

Families who support LGBTQ+ students and oppose bigotry in North Texas school districts are grateful for the intervention.

“Until you’re in a situation like this, you don’t realize how expensive, time-consuming, and overwhelming it can be to sue a school district or file civil rights complaints,” says Hawes. . “Especially because those of us in the community who are struggling with all of this are just parents. Unlike the other side, we are not funded by PACs and Texas billionaires trying to hijack public Ed.

In Texas, parents accuse Patriot Mobile, a local cell phone operator in the state, of having financed the campaigns of far-right candidates in school boards. The company is a branch of a Christian conservative political action committee. Local defenders say it’s to blame for the hysteria.

Hawes says she and others are optimistic. “We’re trying to raise our kids, have full-time jobs and pay our mortgage,” she says. “We don’t have another 20k for a fancy team of lawyers.”

Huddleston says that while the Civil Rights Office typically takes weeks to months to act, it’s the ACLU of Texas that hopes that, because it’s clear the majority of the Keller ISD school board has expressed anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments, the Ministry of Education will act quickly.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education did not respond to The Advocate’s request for comment.

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