Transgender guidelines continue to draw interest at FWISD

Critics and supporters of the Fort Worth school district’s transgender guidelines spoke up during Tuesday’s trustees meeting.
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Critics and supporters of the Fort Worth school district’s transgender guidelines spoke up during Tuesday’s trustees meeting.

Fort Worth

Transgender restroom debate persists at Fort Worth school board meeting

May 24, 2016 09:22 PM


Even though the subject of restroom use by transgender students was not on school trustees’ agenda Tuesday night, for the second week in a row, the subject brought speakers to the board meeting.

Of about 20 people who signed up to address trustees, about eight opposed the guidelines and three spoke in favor.

The guidelines, announced at the April 26 board meeting, include giving transgender students access to a single-stall restroom, a gender-neutral restroom “or the opportunity to visit the facility when other students are not present.”

Before the May 10 meeting, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who has declared restroom regulation a priority for the next legislative session, traveled to Fort Worth to denounce the guidelines as an example of “social engineering” in public schools and called for their repeal. He also called for the resignation of Fort Worth school Superintendent Kent Scribner.

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Critics contend that the policy was drafted without enough public input and that it is a matter of parental rights. There is concern that the policy will result in girls using the boys’ restrooms and vice versa.

Parent Allison Kelley said the guidelines should have been drafted with more public input. The guidelines have caused a division in the community, she said.

“I beg you to be good leaders. Good leaders recognize when a mistake was made and they clean up messes,” she said.

Dinah Rowland said about 2,400 taxpayers and parents have signed a petition against the guidelines and want it “repealed and rescinded.”

“I stand against this policy,” Rowland said. “I stand for Fort Worth.”

LGBT advocates said the policy protects transgender young people, and they praised school administrators for adopting the guidelines.

David Mack Henderson, president of Fairness Fort Worth, an organization that promotes LGBT issues in school districts, alluded to the struggles transgender students face, including feeling alone and without support in their school communities. He also warned that the guidelines have become politicized.

“Here’s the truth under all the camouflage: There are political forces who don’t care if transchildren pee, get beaten, live or die so long as they can galvanize support to raid public school funding for private school vouchers,” Henderson said.

Because the issue was not on the meeting agenda, no action was taken.

National, state issue

Battle lines were drawn on social media. Supporters of the guidelines have been using #standwithscribner on Twitter. Critics against the transgender guidelines used #repeal and #protectmykids.

Last week, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton joined members of Stand for Fort Worth in asking for the repeal of the guidelines.

This week, Tarrant County Republican Party Chairman-elect Tim O’Hare called for repeal of the guidelines and advocated “the enactment of legislation addressing individuals’ use of bathrooms, showers and locker rooms that correspond with their biologically determined sex.”

The U.S. Department of Education recently released guidelines to ensure the civil rights of transgender students. The federal government has stated that under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, schools receiving federal money can’t discriminate based on a student’s sex, including transgender status.

The Texas Senate GOP Caucus has urged school districts to ignore the guidelines “until questions of legality are resolved.”

Starting next week, the school district will host forums aimed at gathering community opinion on the guidelines. Board members said the information gathered may be used to review the policy.

Staff writer Anna Tinsley contributed to this report, which includes material from Star-Telegram archives.

Diane A. Smith: 817-390-7675, @dianeasmith1