For Immediate Release
November 17, 2023
Contact: [email protected]
Students Engaged in Advancing Texas (SEAT), a student-led movement demonstrating youth visibility in educational policymaking, filed a formal complaint of discrimination on Monday with the U.S. Department of Education regarding a comprehensive anti-transgender policy passed by the Katy Independent School District's Board of Trustees in August.
The complaint, delivered to the federal department's Office of Civil Rights, challenges the policy's adverse impact on transgender students, asserting violation of Title IX rights with Gender Identity discrimination and perpetuating harmful sex stereotypes and heteronormative gender roles.
In accordance with the policy, Katy ISD evidently outed at least 19 students to their parents, as reported by a Public Information Request by the Houston Landing. This negligent enforcement raises serious concerns about privacy and emotional well-being of transgender students, who should be entitled to a safe and inclusive educational environment equal to that of cisgender peers.
The policy, passed at the district's August 28 board meeting, prompted resounding community opposition with over 400 individuals, including many students expressing disapproval during more than four hours of impassioned public comments. Despite opposition, the board narrowly voted 4-3 shortly before midnight.
"I’ve seen firsthand how this policy has impacted transgender students, such as hostility and tension between students and educators," said Katy ISD sophomore and SEAT organizer Grace Ding. "Creating barriers for students to access support from trusted adults is a setback to progress made over decades."
SEAT is no stranger to increasing hostility by Katy ISD toward LGBTQ+ students in recent years, including unprecedented book bans and internet censorship. Amid these challenges, the inaugural Katy Pride brought together over 2,000 attendees at FCC Katy in October, demonstrating the community's commitment to supporting all students, regardless of gender identity.
In collaboration with Katy Pride and the ACLU of Texas, SEAT organized a Know Your Rights training for LGBTQ+ students and families in the district earlier this month. The training empowered families with immediate understanding of the policy and direct resources, including SEAT's Student Resource Hub.
SEAT and the Katy community has shown a steadfast commitment to supporting students across all backgrounds and identities. Katy ISD junior Jarred Burton addressed the school board on Monday and published an op-ed on Friday in the Houston Chronicle to continue highlighting student experiences.
"This policy tries to endanger and erase trans students all under the misleading guise of parental authority and student safety, when it is clearly driven by ignorance and hate," said Burton. "Attempts at mental health awareness mean nothing with policies like this in place attempting to erase queer youth."
In our federal complaint, SEAT seeks a resolution that repeals Katy ISD's discriminatory policy, provides direct resources to students impacted by the district's irresponsibility, establishes professional LGBTQ+ inclusion training for district personnel, and codifies nondiscrimination protections for gender identity.
"Educators care deeply about their students. I have seen the amount of love they pour into their jobs and into their classes. Now, Katy ISD is forcing them to out their students and put children into potentially dangerous situations," said Katy ISD senior and SEAT organizer Pooja Kalwani. "By enforcing this discriminatory policy, Katy ISD will be intruding on students’ free expression and privacy. Our lives are not something to manipulate with narrow beliefs, cis or trans."
For media inquiries or interviews with Burton, Ding, or Kalwani, please reach out with your inquiry.
Students Engaged in Advancing Texas (SEAT) is a movement of young people developing transferable skills and demonstrating youth visibility in policymaking. By engaging in constructive action with active engagement in hands-on opportunities of advocacy and education, we're creating a vehicle for driving civic transformation as we build a social movement for bettering our communities and dismantling oppressive power structures.