Texas is providing legal support for a Florida law designed to protect children ages 9 years old and younger from exposure to sexual content while in school.
Similar legislation may soon be considered by the Texas Legislature, set to convene January 10.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Thursday that he and 13 other Republican state attorneys general filed an amicus brief in federal court that supports Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act (HB 1557), which protects students in the third grade and below from classroom discussion about age-inappropriate subjects such as “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”
“Parents have a strong interest, and thus the State has a strong duty, in preventing children from being exposed to sexual instruction that is not age appropriate,” Paxton argues in the brief.
The law also requires school districts to allow parents access to all of their children’s student records and to notify parents if school officials provide their children with any mental, emotional, or physical health services.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the measure into law in March 2022.
Two LGBTQ+ advocacy groups and several individuals quickly sued to block the bill, claiming it violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment and Title IX regulations barring discriminatory practices in educational institutions that receive “federal financial assistance.”
A federal judge dismissed the suit in September, saying the plaintiffs lacked standing. The two groups withdrew, but several individuals are still challenging the law.
Paxton says Florida’s parental rights measure does not discriminate or violate anyone’s right to expression.
“In reality, the law ensures that children aren’t exposed to content that is entirely inappropriate for their age,” Paxton said. “Beyond that, it also guarantees that elementary school students can focus on learning reading, writing, arithmetic, and science rather than the left’s sexual ethics agenda.”
Texas lawmakers have filed similar measures ahead of the state’s 2023 legislative session.
House Bill 1155 by State Rep. Jared Patterson (R–Frisco) would prohibit providing “instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity” to students in kindergarten through eighth grade, or to any K-12 students “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate.”
Patterson’s bill would also require school districts to notify parents about any “mental, emotional, or physical health” services provided to students at school.
“Stop Sexualizing Texas Kids” is a priority for the Texas GOP this legislative session.
“Legislation that addresses community standards is especially important at a time when elements of the left are fighting to have drag queen shows in elementary schools, parents restricted from involvement in the students’ lives, and woke sexuality instruction for students everywhere,” Paxton said.
Texans can find contact information for their state representatives here.