AUSTIN (KXAN) – The Austin Independent School District closes out its pride week Saturday. Each day this week, the district has put on different pride-themed activities, culminating in an event this Saturday with a keynote speaker, food trucks and a student dance.
Eliza Layola, principal of Menchaca Elementary School for nearly a decade, said celebrating the week is especially important in Central Texas.
“It’s actually not about the event or even the week — it’s about the things that we do every day to message to our students, our families and our staff that they have a place within our school and within our community,” Layola said.
Layola said bills affecting trans Texans being looked at in the Texas legislature are “terrifying.” She said some families with trans children in the district feel a sense of unease.
“That’s one area that I feel really strongly about in terms of making sure that our students and families know that there is space and place for them here on our campus,” Layola said.
Texas House Rep. Jared Patterson tweeted on March 20 that Austin ISD’s pride celebration was “a wildly inappropriate pride indoctrination for students.” He said the bill he wrote, HB 1155, which has the support of 33 of his Republican colleagues, “would put a stop to these types of events in public schools from K-8th grade and empower parents to know any and all health-related info about their student,” he wrote in a tweet.
KXAN reached out to Patterson’s office but never heard back.
When asked about Patterson’s comments, an AISD representative sent the following statement:
“Austin ISD’s Pride Week activities do not amount to Human Sexuality instruction. Austin ISD hasn’t made changes to our Pride Week celebrations since last year. We have, however, made a greater effort to ensure that families are aware of the activities taking place at their schools. We are proud to create a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment for all our students, staff and families. We want all LGBTQIA+ students and staff to know that we are proud of them and that we are committed to keeping them safe,” the statement read.
Meghan Buchanan, who identifies as queer, joined AISD as an educator nearly 15 years ago. She now works in campus and district accountability but also sits on the pride planning committee.
“In my previous teaching experience, I did not feel safe or welcome,” she said. “It was hurting my health — it was hurting my mental well-being.”
“When I first started working in Austin ISD, I immediately felt this shift — there was immediately this acceptance. And I just felt like I was able to really show up as my authentic self,” she said.
Buchanan said the pride event was very well-received by AISD parents and she’s not aware of any complaints.
“I would just say that I’m so proud to be a part of a school district and a community as a queer woman and a parent of two children in this district. It’s so affirming and so exciting to see that we are accepted,” she said.