Lt. Gov. calls for superintendent’s resignation over transgender guidelines

Patrick says guidelines violate Texas education code, UIL rules

May 11th, 2016 / By: Keith Collier | Texan Correspondent / comments

FORT WORTH— Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick held a press conference prior to the Fort Worth Independent School District board meeting May 10, calling for Superintendent Kent Scribner’s resignation in the wake of guidelines for transgender students that were announced in April without discussion or approval from the school board or parents. (View the guidelines here.)

“When you ask for someone’s resignation, you owe an explanation why,” Patrick said. “I believe this policy is ill-advised and wrongheaded; it violates the Texas education code, specifically in one area dealing with parents’ information. … The job of the superintendent is not to be a social engineer; the job of the superintendent is to prepare his students for a great education.”

According to the guidelines, “The District requires all personnel to acknowledge the gender identity that each student consistently and uniformly asserts.” This includes using the name and pronouns preferred by the student and allowing students to use restrooms and locker rooms that align with their preferred gender identities.

Read Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's May 9 press release on the FWISD transgender guidelines

The guidelines also prohibit school personnel from notifying parents about their child’s gender identity or potential transition process unless the student consents, which Patrick said is a clear violation of Texas education code.

“Texas education code 26.008 makes no doubt that students cannot leave their parents out of information about their activities at school,” Patrick said. “Parents have a right to know, unless there is some type of abuse or danger at home, and in that case it’s not up to the school to decide that, they turn that over to the police to investigate.”

Patrick acknowledged that he wants to protect every student, which is why he voted for a 2011 senate bill that directed districts to create policies to prevent harassment and bullying. However, the FWISD guidelines, he said, go beyond this.

Although the guidelines are said to be based on Title IX—the U.S. Department of Education’s policy against sex discrimination—Patrick stated, “Sex in Title IX does not talk about transgender transition. This is something that people interpreting Title IX are putting forth. It has no basis in law or fact.”

Patrick also claimed that the new guidelines violated Texas University Interscholastic League (UIL) rules that were passed in February stating that public school extracurricular participation—including academic, athletic, and music contests— is determined by the gender assigned on a student’s birth certificate.

With these violations, Patrick said, the guidelines are “ripe for lawsuits.” He noted that Texas Atty. General Ken Paxton issued a letter to the school district that day expressing concerns over the violations. Other state officials present with Patrick at the news conference were Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills), Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R-Irving) and Rep. Matt Shaheen (R-Plano).

Reporters questioned Patrick about his involvement in the issue, asking him why the state would weigh in on a local issue.

Patrick affirmed his advocacy for local control, but said, “Local control is about local people having a say. The parents of this school district had no say; the school board had no say. As Lt. Gov., I am responsible for a multi-billion-dollar education budget; about $350 million of that went to this district.”

Supporters of the district’s transgender guidelines held a competing press conference prior to Patrick’s, claiming Patrick was bullying the school district and using the issue for personal political gain.

The school board meeting following both press conferences was standing room only, as hundreds of citizens on both sides of the issue filled the chambers, with more protestors outside the building. The new guidelines were not on the school board’s meeting agenda but were addressed during an hour-long public comment period. Some praised Scribner for the guidelines, while others called for their repeal.

Scribner told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he has no intentions of resigning and is proud of the guidelines because they “provide educators with the ability to make all students more comfortable and confident in a learning environment.”