The mother of a transgender child told the Pearland school board Monday night that its policies create an intolerant atmosphere that promotes bullying and could endanger her daughter's life.
"You are increasing the risk of suicide among these children," said Kimberly Shappley, whose daughter Kai in the fall will enroll in kindergarten in the Pearland Independent School District.
The issue of bathroom accommodations for transgender students flared in this booming Houston suburb in May when the Pearland ISD superintendent, John Kelly, issued a statement decrying federal guidance that school districts should permit students to use bathrooms that conformed to their gender identity, even if it didn't match the gender on their birth certificate.
"What's next?" Kelly's statement said in part., "legalizing pedophilia and polygamy?"
Texas Attorney Genereal Ken Paxton sued the Obama administration seeking to block the federal guidance, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick urged school districts not to revise their policies until the suit is resolved. Shappley said Pearland ISD officials have told her that Kai will have to use the boy's bathroom or use one in the school nurse's office.
She told the school board that the national suicide rate among transgender students is 41 percent. Research shows, however, that transgender children are no more likely than others to commit suicide if they get appropriate support, Shappley said.
"I am a mom of a little girl who I want to live," Shappley said. "I'm fighting for her happiness. I'm fighting for her freedom."
School officials did not respond to comments by Shappley or others at the board's public session. The transgender policy was not on the meeting agenda.