Bill could ban Pride events in Texas schools


State Rep. Ken King has filed HB 1507 in the Texas House of Representatives that appears to target school districts like Austin ISD that celebrate Pride Week.

The specific wording of the bill says it would be illegal to “organize or host a program dedicated to celebrating or providing special instruction regarding a sexual preference.” Teachers or school districts that organize and host such events could face a fine of not less than $500 and not more than $10,000 and termination or suspension of a teacher’s certification.

The bill does not specifically mention celebrations of the LGBTQIA community, but the bill author said in a committee hearing on the bill he doesn’t want to see any kind of celebrations of sexuality in schools.
State Representatives Gina Hinojosa and James Talarico, who are from Austin area districts and members of the Texas Public Education Committee, expressed concern during the hearing that the bill was targeting Austin ISD, which has celebrated Pride Week every year since 2014 to show support for their lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender staff, students and parents. They pointed out that the vague language about “sexual preference” could also include celebrations of Valentin’s Day and Prom.

Pride Week doesn’t actually include a lot of discussions of sexuality and instead is more focused on distributing rainbow ally stickers, and hand-held flags and generally celebrating members of the LGBTQIA community in Austin schools and the community at large. There is also an optional event held on a Saturday in which members of PFLAG, an organization dedicated to supporting, educating, and advocating for LGBTQ+ people and their families, pass out literature and celebrate.

When questioned by a fellow committee member about the intent of the bill, King said “My bill stays away from naming any group” and “If a group feels like they’re being named then the bill would probably include them,” making a vague reference to LGBTQIA Pride Week celebrations. In the hearing, King seemed to have a flawed understanding of what goes on during Pride Week, saying that schools shouldn’t take a week away from regular instruction to educate students about sex and sexuality.

King’s bill was left pending in the committee and hasn’t yet advanced, but he did say at the end of the hearing that he would be revising the language of the bill to address concerns expressed about the wording. However, if his bill passes, it appears that it would end a beloved week-long celebration that many in the district look forward to every year.

We believe this bill will take away a celebration for the LGBTQ+ community, which would negatively impact LGBTQIA+ students and the district as a whole. It’s no doubt that some students within the Austin ISD community identify themselves as part of the LGBTQ+ community. Support for these people is critical, as the number of Generation Z identifying themselves as part of the LGBTQ+ community is growing according to a KXAN article about a nationwide survey.

Of the 10,000 Americans surveyed by phone, the survey found that 19.7% out of those born between 1997 and 2004 self-identified as LGBTQ. It’s unjustified to repress their identities by ending pride celebrations. Some students who identify as LGBTQ+ view Austin ISD as a safe haven for them to be open about their identities, allowing them to feel free of discrimination or danger for just being who they are. This bill would take away their haven.

Representatives who want this bill to pass believe that Pride Week celebrations break state law by circumventing parental choice for how their children are taught about sex. In 2022, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent a letter to former superintendent Stephanie Elizalde, accusing the district of breaking the law with these celebrations. He believed that districts are forcing students to participate in such celebrations. Lawmakers say that the district is not only pushing a week of brainwashing students, but they are doing it without the consent of parents. Not only that but they are cutting parents out of it all.

This bill or any other version that would kill Pride Week celebrations should not pass. Pride Week is an important celebration in Austin ISD and one that both students and teachers have rarely expressed discontent with. It helps students who are part of the LGBTQ+ community feel seen and accepted. Although this bill is aimed at “protecting” students from controversial celebrations, this bill would only harm students more.
House Bill 1507 will negatively impact students that are a part of the LGBTQ+ community and the district itself if it is passed. Prohibiting Austin ISD from celebrating pride would hurt students who feel safe and heard during the week.

Supporting this bill would not be a good idea for the future of AISD because it will make students feel unsafe in an environment they’re usually in, which frequently will not lead to a welcoming and inclusive school environment.