Texas attorney general says a week celebrating LGBTQIA+ students, staff and families in an Austin school district violates state law

Ken Paxton, Texas Attorney General, is seen here speaking at a panel in Orlando, Florida, last February.

(CNN)For eight years, a school district in Texas has celebrated its LGBTQIA+ students, staff and families through a Pride Week. But this year, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says the activities are breaking state law.

In a Tuesday letter to the Austin Independent School District's superintendent, Paxton, a Republican, wrote, "The Texas Legislature has made it clear that when it comes to sex education, parents -- not school districts -- are in charge."
Pride Week is an opportunity for schools to show students and their families that they are committed to creating a safe and inclusive space for all, according to the district. During the week, schools are given a guide of suggested activities to foster that support.
      "We aren't worried about Paxton's letter," Austin ISD spokesperson Eddie Villa told CNN. "Pride Week and sex education are different. Celebrating diversity and acceptance is completely legal."
        Paxton argued in his letter the district's "curriculum and lesson plans deal head-on with sexual orientation and gender identity -- topics that unmistakably constitute 'human sexuality instruction' governed by state law" -- and said Texas law requires parental consent in writing before students are taught about human sexuality.
          CNN has reached out to Paxton's office for comment.
          The pushback comes at a time when Republican state lawmakers across the nation are placing new restrictions on LGBTQ Americans. So far, more than 150 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced this year, according to the ACLU. The majority target transgender people.
          The letter follows Paxton's February legal opinion declaring gender-affirming surgical procedures in children and prescribing drugs that affect puberty to be considered "child abuse," a claim seen by many as an attack on transgender children.
          Austin ISD's Pride Week started on Monday and will conclude on Saturday, March 26, with an outdoor party at a local high school's park. Each day features a different theme, including Pride history, "Differences are Awesome," and "Know Your Rights." This year's Pride Week also coincides with National LGBTQ Health Awareness Week, organized by the National Coalition for LGBTQ Health.
          Paxton said his office received reports about "'community circles' -- group discussions on sensitive topics that students were encouraged to keep private, presumably from parents," after one day of Pride Week.
          Community circles are confidential in the sense that they make space for students to feel like they're "trusted and respected for their privacy when sharing in the conversations," the district said, adding: "It does not mean don't tell your parents."
          The district also said everyone has access to the Pride Week materials ahead of time and every parent has the right to opt their student out of activities as they see fit.
          "I want all our LGBTQIA+ students to know that we are proud of them and that we will protect them against political attacks," Stephanie S. Elizalde, Austin ISD's superintendent, tweeted Tuesday evening.

          Parents, teachers welcome the week

          Support in the district has stretched beyond its students, with parents and teachers also applauding the celebrations.
          Nicole Matheny, a kindergarten teacher at an elementary school in Austin, told CNN this week is an emotional one for her as a teacher.
          "I know that it is more important to celebrate and protect the feelings of our students and families who are part of the LGBTQ community than it is a few adults and their feelings," she said. "Even in kindergarten you will come across a child who so obviously identifies as LGBTQ ... that is who they are and they should feel safe being themselves around their peers."
          The "No Place for Hate Pledge" Nicole Matheny's kindergarten students recited during Austin ISD's Pride Week.
          A few of Matheny's families chose to opt out of specific events, she said, but her students were excited to participate in the week's activities.
          On Monday, her students read a "No Place for Hate Pledge" and talked about what it means to be welcoming of others, Matheny said. Later in the week, her students made posters for a parade.
          Posters Nicole Matheny's kindergarten students created for a parade during Austin ISD's Pride Week.
          Linzy, an Austin ISD parent with two daughters in the district, told CNN these issues are close to her family.
          Linzy's younger daughter, a second grader, identifies as transgender, and her older daughter, an eighth grader, has friends who identify as LGBTQIA. Pride Week for their family means a week of continued education and support, she said.