Metro Weekly

Trans 8th Grader Removed from Class and Grilled by Investigator

A Texas mother says her child was questioned without her consent as part of a "child abuse" investigation launched by the state.

Texas, Greg Abbott, governor
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) – Photo by Gage Skidmore

The mother of a transgender boy says her 13-year-old son was removed from class and questioned by an investigator from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

The action was done without her knowledge or consent, as part of a state policy that investigates families of trans-identifying children for alleged “child abuse,” if they affirm their child’s gender identity.

In a letter filed in court last week, the mother, using the pseudonym “Carol Koe,” said the investigator questioned her son in a school conference room. The questions were deeply personal, as the boy was asked about “his most intimate thoughts, his family, his diagnosis.”

The investigator also allegedly asked him if he was taking any “performance-enhancing drugs.”

The interview, which occurred during school hours on Aug. 30, lasted nearly an hour.

According to The Washington Post, Koe says the interview left her son, using the pseudonym “Steve,” shaken and distressed, and caused him to have a “meltdown.” He has missed more classes and has had frequent anxiety attacks since the questioning.

Koe says the recent change is particularly upsetting given that he had seemingly turned a corner after having his gender identity affirmed, going from a depressed preteen to thriving and happy. 

“I don’t want other Texas families to go through a traumatic experience like ours,” Koe wrote in her letter. “I worry that other parents will hesitate to seek out the care and support that their transgender children may need out of fear that someone will report them to DFPS if the threat for baseless investigations remains.”

Koe’s letter was one of many documents submitted to the court as evidence in an ongoing lawsuit filed by LGBTQ advocates challenging a state policy that targets the parents of transgender children for suspected “child abuse.”

Following an executive order issued earlier this year by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, DFPS has begun opening investigations into parents who are believed to have allowed their children to access gender-affirming treatments such as puberty blockers or hormone therapy.

The lawsuit, filed in June, names three families as plaintiffs. It has sought not only to block the investigations into those three families but other families with transgender children in the state, who could potentially lose custody if child welfare officials deem that affirming their children’s gender identities is a form of “child abuse.”

In July, a Texas judge halted investigations into two of the three families in question, but asked attorneys to submit evidence on how DFPS and other state agencies are handling the alleged “child abuse” cases before ruling on the third family or seeking to expand the injunction to cover other families with trans children.

In March, in a separate case, a Texas state judge issued an injunction that blocked DFPS from investigating one of its own employees, the mother of a trans-identifying youth, after she questioned the policy the agency had adopted to comply with Abbott’s order. That same judge later issue a statewide injunction preventing investigations into other families involving transgender children.

A Texas appeals court upheld that decision, but the conservative Texas Supreme Court later issued a split decision, upholding the injunction blocking the investigation into the DFPS worker’s family while allowing other investigations to resume.

Even though the Supreme Court ruled that Abbott overstepped his authority by issuing the order, the court found that DFPS can still launch investigations based on its own policies — meaning the inevitable investigations that followed were faits accomplis, given that the head of DFPS, Jaime Masters, is a Republican appointee and Abbott loyalist.

In Wednesday’s court filing, Koe noted that the DFPS investigator told her attorney that she was being investigated for “child abuse” for seeking testosterone treatment for her son, who was prescribed puberty blockers and hormones and pursued a transition under the guidance of a pediatrician, endocrinologist, and two therapists.

Koe claimed the investigator falsely stated that it was “illegal” to allow a minor to access gender-affirming treatments, even though Texas lawmakers never actually passed a ban on such treatments when the issue was voted on during the 2021 legislative session.

In August 2021, DFPS declared gender confirmation surgery on minors to be child abuse, unless the surgery was undertaken to correct “medically verifiable genetic disorders of sex development,” such as forcing intersex children into a male or female “box” to meet parents’ personal preferences.

However, most medical experts agree that surgical interventions are not recommended for minors, and studies have shown that a majority of transgender people ultimately never pursue surgical interventions, especially if they receive other forms of gender-affirming care.

Along with Koe’s testimony, LGBTQ advocates also submitted a declaration from another mother, Samantha Poe, whose 14-year-old child is “in the midst of exploring what a social transition feels like.”

Poe says that even though her child hasn’t received any gender-affirming medical care, DFPS still launched an investigation against her, leading her child to experience anxiety and suicidal ideation.

On Aug. 25, DFPS requested that Poe either consent to allowing investigators to question her child, or submit proof that the child is “well-adjusted,” according to court documents.

Poe declined to allow a walk-through of her home, and expressed concern that her child’s suicidal ideation would become worse if the investigation continues.

“My biggest fear is [my child] 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,” Poe wrote. 

Shelly Skeen, a senior attorney at Lambda Legal, told the Post that the probe into Koe’s family and DFPS’s overtures to Poe make it clear that state officials are continuing to investigate families with trans children for child abuse even though DFPS claimed in court that they would end the investigations.

“Instead of stopping the investigation or closing it, which is what DFPS was stating on the stand during our hearing that they were going to do, they’re in essence doing the opposite: laying eyes on one family and opening an investigation into another one,” Skeen said.

Marissa Gonzales, the director of media relations for DFPS, told Dallas-area ABC affiliate WFAA that she could not comment on specific investigations or confirm whether it is the agency’s policy to pull children from classroom instruction, as allegedly occurred with Koe’s son.

Gonzales told WFAA that the department had received 13 reports of alleged “child abuse,” 12 of which had been opened as investigations. However, only four of those cases remain open, and no children had been removed from their families as of Friday.

Leave a Comment:

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!