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US school district faces probe over transgender policy

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The US Department of Education has launched a civil rights investigation into a school district in southern Texas, after LGBT student activists denounced its pronoun policy as discrimination.

The Katy Independent School District (ISD) near Houston serves about 94,000 students. Last August, its board voted to require notification of parents if students identify as transgender or ask to use pronouns different from their biological sex.

Cameron Samuels, who graduated from one of the Katy ISD high schools in 2022, filed a complaint about the policy with the federal government.

The DOE’s Civil Rights Office responded by opening a probe against the district earlier this week, for “discrimination on the basis of sex or disability,” according to local media.

“I hope this can help set an example to other school boards across the country that are trying to pass similar policies,” Kadence Carter, a transgender 17-year-old who left the school district after the policy was enacted, told reporters on Monday.

Katy ISD has denied any wrongdoing and says it was “committed to offering equal educational opportunities to our entire community.”

The Department of Education’s move comes just weeks after the Biden administration redefined sex discrimination under Title IX of the federal Civil Rights Act to include “sex stereotypes, pregnancy, gender identity and sexual orientation.”

The new rules are supposed to take effect in August, but Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, has already instructed schools in his state to disregard them.

“Congress wrote Title IX to protect women. [President Joe] Biden, with no authority to do so, rewrote Title IX to protect men who identify as women,” Abbott said last month. He called the new rules an “illegal dictate” that violated Texas laws that prohibit men competing in women’s sports.

The Katy policy, adopted by the board of trustees in a 4-3 vote, requires students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that “correspond with their biological sex,” bans district employees from discussing gender-related issues with students, allows teachers to refuse requests to call students by pronouns that do not reflect their biological sex, and requires administrators to notify parents or guardians of such requests or transgender identifications.

“Using pronouns is a way of social-transitioning children. We’re protecting them from that,” school board president Victor Perez said at a board meeting last summer.

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