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Doss Elementary School administrators threatened over Pride Week activities

A rainbow flag against a person's shoulder that says "AISD Ally"
Gabriel C. Pérez

School administrators at Doss Elementary in Austin ISD are receiving death threats because of events they are hosting during the district’s Pride Week.

The threats started after the agenda for the week — intended to help LGBTQ students and families feel welcome at school — was posted on Twitter. Conservative accounts widely shared the agenda, which included an activity called community circles.

Doss Principal Nathan Steenport said these are times for teachers to lead discussions around topics such as family makeup, identity and respecting people’s differences. Teachers encourage students to share their thoughts and feelings. One of the agreements students must adhere to is respecting the privacy of people who speak and keeping what is said in the room private.

Online critics said the district was encouraging students not to tell their parents what they were learning during Pride Week.

The district wanted to promote privacy during these conversations so students felt comfortable sharing with each other, Steenport said. “It doesn’t mean don’t tell your parents.”

Steenport said the activities offered at his school and promoted throughout the district are age appropriate. The school also sends out the agenda to parents beforehand so they can see what topics will be discussed and opt their students out if they want.

Once the agenda was shared online, Steenport said, he and his assistant principals started receiving threatening messages.

“Throughout the week myself and my administrators have received emails, phone calls, even text messages,” he said. “Emails with our personal information are getting out there." He said the threats were making him and his colleagues feel uncomfortable going into the week, and AISD Police has been working to make sure the building remains safe for students and staff.

Cristina Nguyen, an AISD spokesperson, said the district’s official social media accounts are also receiving threats.

“A lot of the tweets and a lot of the feedback we are seeing is not necessarily parents from Austin ISD,” she said. "Just to give an example of the rise in hateful replies and mentions in our social media right now," Twitter advised the account to put on safety mode, which it can't do as a public institution.

The furor got the attention of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who wrote a letter to AISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde condemning Pride Week.

The letter said the activities teach students about human sexuality without parental consent and that it is an “indoctrination” of students. He encouraged AISD parents to file grievances with the school board.

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Claire McInerny is a former education reporter for KUT.
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