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Texas AG Demands School District Hand Over Controversial Human Sexuality Curriculum

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton demanded Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Kent Scribner turn over a copy of a sixth-grade health curriculum that includes lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity.

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Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Kent Scribner listens to speakers at a school board meeting on Tuesday, May 10, 2016. Photo credit: Laura Buckman / The Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a comment from Stand for Fort Worth.

Attorney General Ken Paxton sent a letter to Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Kent Scribner on Thursday evening demanding he hand over a copy of the district’s controversial sixth-grade human sexuality curriculum, which includes lessons about gender identity and sexual orientation. 

Paxton claimed in the letter that district officials were repeatedly denying parents access to the curriculum or textbooks, which he said are in use in 22 schools across the district. He said children who asked to take their textbooks home or take a photo of the curriculum were denied. 

Paxton cited state and federal laws that give parents access to “all written records of a school district concerning the parent’s child” and “the right to inspect and review the education records of their children.” 

Stand for Fort Worth, a parental rights group whose members are opposed to having their children learn about gender identity, has been calling on Fort Worth ISD officials to hand over the textbooks and curriculum for months, arguing the district should have asked parents’ permission before moving forward with the curriculum, according to the Star-Telegram

The group argued that although parents were sent a notice allowing them to opt their children out of the course, the notice was not clear about the content. 

“We are disappointed Superintendent Kent Scribner’s administration continues to violate the trust of parents, but we are grateful Attorney General Ken Paxton is standing up to defend parental rights in the Fort Worth ISD,” said Zeb Pent, spokesperson for Stand for Fort Worth late Thursday. 

Members of the group also cheered Paxton’s letter on Facebook Thursday night. “Given the rash of inappropriate behavior by some teachers and the garbage being taught by others, it’s imperative that parents remain vigilant and guard against their kids being indoctrinated!” one person wrote. 

Fort Worth ISD officials did not return a request for comment Thursday. State curriculum standards do not require sixth-graders to learn about sexual orientation or gender identity, but districts are allowed to add material at their discretion. 

This isn’t the first time Fort Worth ISD officials have crossed top state leadership on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. In 2016, Scribner signed a policy allowing transgender students to “acknowledge the gender identity that each student consistently and uniformly asserts” and use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice — prompting Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to call for his resignation, claiming the policy broke the law. 

The policy also directed school employees to share information about students’ gender identity at the student’s direction. Paxton argued in a subsequent nonbinding opinion that that part of the policy broke state law by limiting parental access to crucial information. 

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Aliyya Swaby started as the public education reporter in October 2016. She came to The Texas Tribune from the hyperlocal nonprofit New Haven Independent, where she covered education, zoning and transit for two years. After graduating from Yale University in 2013, she spent a year freelance reporting in Panama on social issues affecting black Panamanian communities. A native New Yorker, Aliyya misses public transportation but is thrilled by the lack of snow.

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