Fort Worth school superintendent Kent Paredes Scribner says he won’t resign as superintendent and defends his so-called “bathroom policy.” Khampha Bouaphanh Star-Telegram archives
Fort Worth school superintendent Kent Paredes Scribner says he won’t resign as superintendent and defends his so-called “bathroom policy.” Khampha Bouaphanh Star-Telegram archives

Fort Worth

Fort Worth superintendent says he won’t resign; stands by ‘bathroom policy’

May 10, 2016 10:47 AM

FORT WORTH

Kent Scribner said he has no intention of resigning his post of superintendent of the city’s urban school district over a set of controversial “bathroom” guidelines he implemented last month for transgender students.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called for Scribner’s resignation as a result of Scribner’s “bathroom policy.”

“I’m proud of these guidelines,” Scribner said early Tuesday. “I think they provide educators with the ability to make all students more comfortable and confident in a learning environment.

“I don’t think we can wait,” he told the Star-Telegram’s editorial board. “Children shouldn’t have to wait for their schools to feel safe and full of respect.”

The guidelines for transgender students includes providing that “students must feel comfortable and safe in the use of restrooms.” It does not include language that says a student must have access to restrooms consistent with their gender identity.

The guidelines also allows for students to use a “single stall restroom, a gender neutral restroom, or the opportunity to visit the facility when other students are not present.”

At the end of the day, the parents of this community expect me to focus on students, so we’re focusing on students.

Kent Paredes Scribner, Fort Worth school superintendent

In a prepared statement late Monday, Patrick said that Scribner had placed his “own personal political agenda ahead of the more than 86,000 students attending 146 schools in the district. … Campus safety should be of paramount concern for anyone in his position.

“Every parent, especially those of young girls, should be outraged,” Patrick said. “I call upon the parents within the Fort Worth ISD to take immediate steps to repeal this stealthy scheme and remove Dr. Scribner from his post.”

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Scribner said he respects Patrick’s opinion, but “I just don’t agree with it.”

“I know this is a tough issue,” the superintendent said. “People have strong feelings on both sides. At the end of the day, the parents of this community expect me to focus on students, so we’re focusing on students.”

Last week, some trustees have said they caught flak because the district had not sought public input before adopting the guidelines. The issue had not appeared on the agenda as an item for discussion.

But board president Jacinto Ramos said his colleagues had had months to review Scribner’s guidelines. Ramos said the guidelines were provided to the board in early draft as early as January.

Of Patrick, Ramos said the state lawmaker was “dealing in a political environment. ... We, as a board, are focused on children.”

Every parent, especially those of young girls, should be outraged.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick

Fort Worth for years has had policies in place to support “the inclusion of transgender students,’’ said Michael Steinert, assistant superintendent of support services for the Fort Worth school district.

Staff has “always supported the inclusion of these (transgender) students and made every accommodation possible,” Steinert said.

Just last week, campus staff provided a single-use bathroom to a transgender student to accommodate the student’s needs, Steinert said. Usually, that bathroom is located in the school nurse’s office, he said. The issue comes up about once a year, Steinert said.

The district doesn’t track how many transgender students are enrolled in a district of 87,000. But Steinert said that was not the point.

“It doesn’t matter if we have one or 100,000, we have the responsibility to support the safety and inclusion of those students just like any other students,” Steinert said.

The debate over transgender bathrooms has emerged as a hot political issue in recent weeks, thanks mostly to the recent passing of a law in North Carolina that requires transgender people to use restrooms that correspond with their biological gender.

Similar bills have been introduced in other states, and the issue promises to be a point of debate at this week’s Republican State Convention in Dallas.

Scribner said he felt strongly that the guidelines create “an open and safe and respectful” environment for students.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Yamil Berard: 817-390-7705, @yberard

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