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Austin ISD says trans students will always be protected, despite Paxton's directive

 A spray painted sign advocates for transgender rights on a vehicle outside Austin City Hall reads "Trans Lives Matter"
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT
A sign painted on a Little Petal Alliance van outside Austin City Hall last May reads "Trans Lives Matter." Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a nonbinding order this week that defined gender-affirming health care as child abuse under Texas law.

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Austin ISD's superintendent said this week that trans kids in the district should continue to feel safe at school, after Texas' attorney general issued an opinion saying some medical care they seek should be considered child abuse.

“We protect all our kids at Austin ISD," Stephanie Elizalde wrote on Twitter, "no matter what, and that goes for our trans kids, too.”

Texas doctors belonging to the Committee to Protect Health Care and National Nurses United, an organization of registered nurses, both condemned the move to "criminalize" health care for trans youth. The American Medical Association has said interfering in gender-affirming care for nonbinary and trans youth can be detrimental to physical and mental health.

Ken Paxton's opinion is nonbinding, so schools are not required to turn in families who seek out hormone therapy or any sort of gender-assignment surgery or procedure. These types of opinions are meant to guide prosecutors in how to interpret the law.

A day after Paxton issued his opinion, Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter to the Department of Family Protective Services directing it to “conduct a prompt and thorough investigation of any reported instances of these abusive procedures in the State of Texas.”

But district attorneys around the state do not support this opinion. DAs in Dallas, Travis, Bexar, Nueces and Fort Bend said the directive was disturbing and that they will not prosecute any families for child abuse who seek these kinds of treatments for their children.

Travis County DA Jose Garza signed a letter with the other DAs saying: "We will enforce the Constitution and will not irrationally and unjustifiably interfere with medical decisions made between children, their parents and their medical physicians."

School staff are mandatory reporters for child abuse, but a spokesperson from AISD said it is not telling school staff to do anything different in light of Paxton's opinion. Instead, the spokesperson says staff should reassure trans students and their families that they will continue to be safe at school and will not be reported.

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