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Transgender 8th grader taken out of class for questioning by Texas child welfare investigator, mom says

The mother's declaration is part of an ongoing lawsuit by LGBTQ+ advocates against Gov. Greg Abbott's order to investigate gender-affirming care.

AUSTIN, Texas — The mother of a transgender boy says her 13-year-old son was removed from class and questioned without a parent present by a Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) investigator on Aug. 30. 

In a letter filed in court late Wednesday, Carol Koe, using a pseudonym, said the DFPS investigator questioned her son in a school conference room about "his most intimate thoughts, his family, his diagnosis" and "she asked him if he was taking any 'performance enhancing drugs.'"

The interview lasted nearly an hour, the mother said in her declaration to the court.

The son, who was assigned the female sex at birth, was too upset to go back to class and "had a meltdown," the mother said.

The filing is part of a new batch of evidence filed in an ongoing lawsuit by LGBTQ+ advocates asking the court to block Gov. Greg Abbott's order requiring DFPS to investigate families of transgender youth for providing gender-affirming care.

Koe told the court the DFPS investigator said she "was being investigated for 'child abuse' for seeking testosterone treatment" for her son "and that it was 'illegal' to do so."

During the 2021 legislative session, Texas lawmakers failed to pass bills restricting gender-affirming care.

In August 2021, DFPS deemed gender reassignment surgery as child abuse except to correct "medically verifiable genetic disorders of sex development."

However, medical experts widely agree that gender-affirming care is medically necessary and rarely includes surgery.

Instead, most care includes puberty or hormone blockers, which delay puberty but can be reversed.

In Wednesday's court filing, Koe told the court that the DFPS investigator told her attorney that the investigator "was not referring to a law," but wanted to know if Koe "was aware of the new regulations and practices recently passed."

Koe told the court the investigator confirmed she was being investigated for physical abuse for providing gender-affirming care to the boy who she says "is finally himself again" after undergoing treatment with puberty blockers and hormones under the guidance of a pediatrician, endocrinologist and two therapists. 

Marissa Gonzales, director of media relations for DFPS, told WFAA on Friday that she could not comment on specific investigations when asked about whether DFPS has officially resumed gender-affirming care investigations and whether it's the policy for DFPS to remove children from classrooms to question them without parents' knowledge and consent. 

However, she said that the department had received 13 reports and that 12 of those were opened as investigations. Only four of those cases remain open and there have been no removals as of Friday. 

On Aug. 23, in response to a prior WFAA request, Gonzales said eight of the investigations were closed and three remained open.

"None of the investigations have resulted in a removal of a child," Gonzales said then.

The declaration shows DFPS continues to pursue child abuse investigations into parents who provide gender-affirming care to transgender children despite ongoing litigation to block the inquiries.

In May, the Texas Supreme Court allowed investigations to continue but blocked at least one investigation into one family who is suing the state.

Over the summer, three more child abuse investigations into gender-affirming care were blocked in Travis County.

Abbott's order requiring investigations came one day after Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a non-binding legal opinion on February 21 saying gender-affirming care could "legally constitute child abuse."

In July, a Travis County judge asked attorneys to submit additional evidence about how DFPS is handling these investigations, which led to Wednesday's filing from Koe.

The filing also included a declaration from Samantha Poe, the mother of a 14-year-old child who uses they/them pronouns, who said they're "in the midst of exploring what a social transition feels like."

Poe said she is currently under investigation by DFPS despite confirming her child was receiving gender-affirming care.

DFPS requested Poe's consent for an investigator to question her child on Aug. 25. DFPS also requested a walk-through of Poe's home, which she declined.

Poe's child "tried to take their own life due to past trauma, challenges around identity explorations...and response to their gender identity," she wrote.

"My biggest fear is they will start to blame themself for the fact that I am at risk of being declared a 'child abuser' because they are being true to who they are and because I support and love them."

The declarations were first reported by The Washington Post.

When Abbott issued his order, there was confusion and anger inside DFPS. Yet, investigations continue.  

Internal emails obtained by WFAA show that DFPS managers worked to keep lower-level staffers from handling the cases by requiring them to be escalated to supervisors.

Workers also shared their opinions despite strict instructions not to email or give their personal thoughts about the order.

"Effing bull poop," one worker wrote.

"I will resign," another worker said.

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