Gender-neutral bathrooms for preschoolers, state-funded chest binders for adolescent girls, and secretive after-school youth clubs to discuss sexuality and gender identity: these are the realities that parents face inside New Mexico public schools, according to mom-of-two Layla Carter*.

Carter’s two sons Jeremy* and Nathaniel* are students in the Las Cruces School District. Encompassing 40 different elementary, middle, and high schools and serving over 23,000 students, Carter said of administrators, “education is the last thing on their minds.”

“One of my sons is in pre-K, and the other is in middle school. Both of their schools have gender-neutral bathrooms,” she said in an interview with Independent Women’s Forum (IWF). “In fact, every school in Las Cruces has gender-neutral bathrooms.”

Carter said these expensive new additions to the district schools are the result of millions of dollars in state funding. Despite the district’s notoriously low educational outcomes, Carter noted that state funding is generously earmarked for sexuality and gender-related causes. 

Besides gender-neutral bathrooms, she said that funding is also going toward helping students secretly present as the opposite sex at school. For example, Las Cruces schools are providing pubescent female students who wish to appear more masculine state-funded chest binders, which are strips of fabric that constrict and flatten the breasts.

To Carter, one of the most eye-opening programs that taxpayer dollars are being used to fund  are after-school clubs, where she said students can dress as the opposite sex and “explore their gender identity” in secret. Carter said she learned about these clubs through a Facebook group that she is a part of. When pickup time approaches, the students simply change back into their regular clothes, and parents are none the wiser, Carter said.

Carter believes that keeping parents in the dark is an intentional move by the state. 

“These programs seem to be heavily targeting lower-income schools where many of the parents don’t have the time or resources to keep tabs on what their kids are learning,” Carter said. “I don’t have an issue with adults living their lives the way they want to, but this stuff shouldn’t be pushed on children.” 

One of Carter’s friends is a 7th grade teacher at a lower-income school in Las Cruces. This friend – who identifies as a lesbian – is reportedly shocked by the amount of confusion her students have about their gender identities. Carter said that her friend admitted, “These kids are so lost.”

Even at Carter’s children’s schools, which are in a higher-income area of Las Cruces, gender confusion is rampant. Although she said her sons have not been adversely affected – thanks to her vigilant oversight – they have been harmed by other behavioral problems plaguing the district schools. According to Carter, and several other New Mexico parents that have come forward, these are not isolated issues.

“My middle-school aged son was punched in the face by a girl after he asked her to quiet down in class,” Carter said. “Apparently, physical fights at school are extremely common. I didn’t know what to tell him – hitting a girl is not okay, but neither is letting yourself be attacked!” 

Carter fears for more than her son’s physical safety. To avoid becoming the target of false accusations, she has instructed him to avoid the school’s gender-neutral bathrooms.

“What if a girl identifying as a boy walked into the bathroom while he was also using it?” she asked. “A lot of these kids have mental health issues. If a girl wanted to frame my son for harassment or assault, she absolutely could, and there would be no evidence to prove her wrong.” 

This combination of record-low academic outcomes, lax disciplinary policies, and an administration that prioritizes gender ideology over academics has left mothers like Carter considering alternative education options for their children.

“The Las Cruces schools Facebook groups are full of moms asking for resources and tips on how to homeschool,” Carter said. “I’m even considering homeschooling at this point.”

While Carter explained that her flexible job could allow her to homeschool her two sons, she fears that many students in Las Cruces lack the parental oversight and guidance that they need to emerge from the public school system unscathed. What’s more, Carter said that some parents who are non-native English speakers might not even be able to keep tabs on what their kids are learning at school due to language barriers.

While she requested to speak anonymously out of fear of retribution—for both herself and her children—Carter recognizes that her story could help educate and empower others to better protect their children.

“If my story helps those parents to have a better understanding of what’s happening in the public schools, I’ll be thrilled,” Carter said. “They need to know what’s really going on.”

*Name has been changed to protect the identities of the storyteller and her children.