AUSTIN (KXAN) – The Texas House discussed a bill Tuesday that would fine teachers and school officials up to $10,000 for celebrating or providing special instruction on sexual preference, including events like Pride week.
The bill, authored by Rep. Ken King, R-Canadian, also would allow the State Board of Educator Certification to revoke or suspend a teaching certificate if an educator violates the law.
“I think having sexually oriented celebrations at school for all grades is teaching a sexual ideology no matter who is doing it,” King said. “I think when you are teaching first graders your world view of sexuality that is an inappropriate relationship.”
King did not provide examples of this happening in any Texas school districts. But Austin Independent School District celebrated Pride week in late March.
The district’s website lists themes for each day, including “All are Welcome,” “Differences are Awesome,” and “Pride Ya’ll! Community Event.”
The district said it does not comment on pending legislation but said its legislative priorities include “support[ing] an equitable education environment.”
“What I would also say is not every kid has discriminated against anybody. Not every kid wants to celebrate somebody else’s sexuality. Not every parent wants their kids subjected to these things,” King said.
When asked about who would pay the fines if a district was found to have violated the law, Rep. King said teachers and the superintendent who sanctioned the event would be responsible for paying the financial penalty.
“When we pay teachers $38,000 a year?” Rep. Alma Allen, D-Houston, asked. “So, that’s one more thing. You add that you don’t teach certain parts of Black history. You don’t teach gay and lesbian movements. That’s one more fear coming into the profession,” Allen said.
Lawmakers heard extensive testimony into the afternoon from parents, students, and teachers, including one parent who asked, “why should that lifestyle be highlighted in our schools?” One teacher said “pride week does not make our students gay. It does make students feel it is ok to be themselves.”
Rep. James Talarico, D-Round Rock, and Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, also questioned the potential negative consequences of banning instruction and celebrations geared toward the LGBTQ community.
“If a group of students, whether its gay kids or Black kids, we want to make sure we are creating time to uplift those students so we are counterbalancing the historical discrimination against those kids,” Talarico said. “For instance, why we have Black History Month to ensure a group of kids that have faced historical discrimination is included. I think that is my concern about any effort or any legislation that would prevent school districts from celebrating groups of students that have faced historical discrimination.”