U.S. Department of Education investigates Katy ISD's gender policy that led to trans student dropout

Pooja Lodhia Image
Friday, June 28, 2024
U.S. Department of Education investigates Katy ISD's gender policy that led to trans student dropout
The impact of Katy ISD's controversial new gender policy is becoming clearer.

KATY, Texas (KTRK) -- Katy ISD's controversial new gender policy requires parents to be notified if students identify themselves as transgender, and it's impact is becoming clearer.

Kade Carter is a lot of things: a gamer, a musician, and a son.

But, the 17-year-old, who has won awards for his poetry and artwork, is a high school dropout.

"I miss a lot of my friends. I tried online school for a little bit. Not my style, too much ADHD, too much. Simply too much," he laughed.

Kade is transgender.

"I think for a long time I had known that I wasn't a girl and I just didn't want to open that can of worms. I think a lot of my life I had been making excuses for myself, trying to not be who I was out of fear of what that meant for me because I saw how people were treated and I didn't want to be treated like that. No one wants to be treated like that," he said. "When I finally did, it wasn't surprising. I knew that I was going to experience pushback and harassment, lots of harassment. The surprise was how good it felt to be authentic."

When he was 14, a Mayde Creek high school freshman, he told his parents, friends, and some teachers.

They were all supportive.

Then, it all changed.

Last August, Katy ISD narrowly passed a controversial gender policy that requires district staff to inform parents if students identify themselves as transgender.

Students are required to use restrooms and locker rooms that align with their sex assigned at birth.

Kade was one of nearly 100 people to take to the podium against the policy.

The board meeting was seven hours long.

"At the end of the night after everyone opened their hearts and told these people about the impacts of what they were going to do, they did it anyway," he said.

The policy eventually passed by a 4 to 3 vote, with board members saying it informs parents and protects teachers.

Kade said he was stopped by his Spanish teacher the day after the policy passed,

"She held me up at the door, pointed at my legal name on the roster, and said, 'We're going back to this one now. Okay.' And the way she said, 'Okay,' wasn't a question. It was a statement. She was going to do this, and she did. And I walked out of class. I got up and left," Kade explained.

Kade's father began to worry about bullying and safety.

Less than a week later, he unenrolled Kade.

"People fear what they don't understand. And do I think that some of the people who made my life a living hell are jumping up and down in satisfaction that they finally got rid of that one person they don't like," Kade said. "But, at the end of the day, I did it for my mental health, for my peace."

After a year off school, Kade's father hopes to enroll him in another school district to finish high school.

But, other school boards, including Conroe ISD's board, are exploring passing similar policies, even as the U.S. Department of Education investigates whether the policy is discriminatory.

"I hope that other districts look at what happened to our district, see the pain that it's been causing, and look at us and say, 'I don't want to be like that," he said.

At 17, Kade is too young to vote.

But, there is one thing he can keep doing.

"Some things are worth the ridicule, and the threats, and the nonstop harassment," he said. "And I think if anything is worth that, then being yourself is."

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