HOUSTON - Attorneys are filing a lawsuit on behalf of two women who say they were wrongfully terminated from a Katy area day care center amid controversy over a 6-year-old transgender child.
Christian author Madeline Kirksey said she was fired as the manager of Children's Lighthouse Learning Center because she refused to go along with parents who decided to recognize their little girl as a boy. Her coworker, Akesha Wyatt, was also fired.
Houston attorney Andy Taylor, fresh off his legal victories challenging Houston's HERO issue and rain tax, is challenging the terminations.
"This case involves a little 6-year-old girl who has been attending a private school in Katy, Texas for the last four months as a little girl. She has parents who are a same-sex couple, two men, who decided that she was transgender," Taylor said Tuesday afternoon at a news conference. "On Friday, that little girl left school. I'm not going to use names, but (she was) known to everybody as 'Sally,' and on Monday, this little girl returns to school calling herself 'Johnny.'"
The former staff members said the parents returned the girl to school with shortened hair, demanding that the school change her name. Taylor said the abrupt change was "dumped" in the laps of the administrators without warning.
Kirksey said her religious beliefs made her approval of the change impossible, and she felt that she had a duty to protect the girl from possible bullying and help dozens of other children and their parents, who she said deserved to be told about the change. She said those beliefs cost her a job.
The firings triggered a national firestorm amid growing confusion in schools across the country about handling very young transgender children and their parents' choices.
"The folks who are on the front line - the administrators, the bus driver, the teachers - they had a real issue on their hands. Transgenderism is a major and controversial issue for anyone, even adults. This is a little, innocent, 6-year-old child," Taylor said.
Taylor said most psychiatrists would agree that young children are not ready to make that type of decision.
"At that age, they are still trying to decide what kind of ice cream and what kind of breakfast cereal they enjoy. And their opinions about things change, not only on a daily basis, but on an hourly basis," the attorney said. "To inflict upon a little 6-year-old girl the heavy decision of her sexual identity is nothing short of child abuse."
Taylor said his client has paid the price for standing her ground in defense of all the children at Children's Lighthouse.
"Can you only imagine the reaction of a couple of dozen 6-year-olds when they learn that Sally is all of a sudden Johnny?" Taylor asked. "They may think this is a cruel game of opposite day. And are we going to have little girls running into boys' restrooms and little boys running into girls restrooms?"
He said the issue has gotten out of control and he has filed a complaint with the EEOC.
"It's time for people of faith to stand up and to just say no to the LGBT's insistence on pushing their agenda to the exclusion of the civil rights of everyone else involved," Taylor said. "We believe in equal rights and dignity for all. We do not agree with creating special rights where those rights are elevated and everyone else's rights are not respected. You can't pick and choose which child you are going to respect, because dignity is owed to all."
A daycare spokesman told Channel 2 the women were fired for other reasons, unrelated to the transgender child.
A termination report provided by Kirksey says that she "failed to follow company policy, using cell phone in presence of children; gossiping; inappropriate conversation with parent."
But another line in the report that is scratched through says Kirksey did not follow instructions when "requested by parents and management to call a transgender child by child's new name. "
The spokesman says the teachers and their attorneys are misrepresenting the facts of the case.
"It's unfortunate that a student in a private matter is being broadcast to the world and it's clear that someone else's agenda is at play here," said Jamie Isaks.
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