Texas’ “child abuse” investigators harassed a trans 8th grader even after a court told them to stop

Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks to the media before the 2016 Republican National Committee debate.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott Photo: Shutterstock

On August 30, middle school administrators allegedly pulled a 13-year-old transgender boy out of class so an investigator from the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) could ask him personal questions about his past medical history, gender dysphoria, and past suicide attempt.

The boy — given the pseudonym “Steve Koe” in court documents — was left “shaking and distressed” by the interrogation, The Washington Post reported. Worse yet, the interrogation allegedly occurred after a court told DFPS investigators to stop doing them.

Now, Koe’s story is a part of supplemental evidence being filed by the LGBTQ-advocacy organizations Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in its lawsuit against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

In February, Abbott ordered DFPS to investigate for child abuse any parents who allow their trans children to access gender-affirming medical care. Abbott based his order on a non-binding opinion from the state’s Attorney General Ken Paxton which called such care a form of “child abuse.”

Paxton’s opinions and Abbott’s order both went against the best practices of pediatrics outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the American Psychological Association. These organizations consider gender-affirming medical care necessary in many cases, noting it reduces mental anguish and suicide risk among trans youth.

Soon after issuing his order, several DFPS employees quit and some state attorneys refused to enforce it. The Texas Supreme Court ruled that neither Abbott nor Paxton had the authority to issue the order. Several families with trans children, represented by Lambda Legal and the ACLU also filed a lawsuit against Abbott.

The presiding district judge in the lawsuit issued a temporary restraining order, effectively stopping DFPS’ investigations while the court prepares to consider the order’s legality in December.

Koe’s story — part of supplemental evidence illustrating how state agencies are handling the alleged child abuse cases — suggested that DFPS continued its investigations of trans families, even after the court ordered it to stop. In a May briefing, state government officials noted that the judge’s ruling to temporarily stop the probes “prevents a state agency from carrying out its statutory duty to investigate reported child abuse,” the Post wrote.

Another woman, identified pseudonymously in court documents as Samantha Poe, said her 14-year-old child became the subject of a DFPS abuse investigation even though the child had received no gender-affirming medical care. The child was only “in midst of exploring what a social transition feels like,” Poe said. But DFPS opened an investigation against the child’s family in February. The stress has left the child with “suicidal ideations,” court documents state.

DFPS employees are speaking out about how Abbott’s order circumvented rule-making procedures at the state agency and made it much harder for its employees to help victims of actual abuse.

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