FWISD significantly revises transgender student guidelines
Local and state opposition leads school district to reverse course on controversial document
July 22nd, 2016 / By: Bonnie Pritchett | TEXAN Correspondent / comments
FORT WORTH, Texas—Critics who claimed Fort Worth Independent School District guidelines put self-identity above common sense declared victory Wednesday after district administrators released a drastically revised version of the Transgender Student Guidelines.
FWISD issued the revisions July 20 following a series of community meetings dominated by a racially diverse coalition of FWISD residents calling for the revocation of the guidelines. One obvious sign of changes was the reduction from eight pages to two.
Superintendent Kent Scribner defended the guidelines as an answer to staff requests about how to meet the needs of students dealing with gender dysphoria, a psychological condition in which biological men feel as if they are women and biological women believe they are men. Although grateful for the change, critics of the guidelines also contend the administration’s process of writing and enacting both versions demonstrated a blatant disregard for community insight into a sensitive and often controversial matter. The coalition rallied to repeal the rules has now turned its attention to seating like-minded citizens on the school board next May.
“It is concerning to us that the superintendent is still acting unilaterally,” said Cindy Asmussen, SBTC ethics and religious liberty advisor. “Because the [school] board is not holding him accountable and insisting on board approval through an open and public process, future problems are almost certain.”
Representatives of Stand for Fort Worth, an organization of concerned citizens created call for repeal of the regulations, posted on the group’s website, “We are disappointed the Board of Trustees failed to hold Superintendent Scribner accountable. We look forward to preventing this abuse of authority in the future by electing new trustees next May who will stand for Fort Worth.”
Under the guise of creating safety protocol for all students, Scribner enacted the original guidelines in April. The unannounced decision created an uproar of protests across the 86,000-student district. Scribner defended his actions, noting that the guidelines only gave direction to the application of existing non-discrimination policy and did not require board approval. But parents, pastors, attorneys and state officials charged the guidelines sidestepped parental authority and therefore Texas law. The rules also created an untenable environment for district employees and students who could not affirm gender dysphoric students’ decisions to present themselves as a gender other than their sex at birth.
Attorney General Ken Paxton applauded the revisions and said they comply with state law. Paxton had challenged the legality of the original guidelines because they cultivated a measure of secrecy between parents and their children who choose to identify as a gender different from their sex at birth while on campus.
“This guideline now allows school officials to consider the needs of students and their families on a case-by-case basis while considering the health and safety of all students,” Paxton said in a press release.
Compared to the original guidelines the new guidelines represent a drastic change in the parent-student-district personnel relationship. The original document presumed a tenuous relationship between the transgender students and their parents giving school personnel license to circumvent parents and guardians in order to affirm the student’s choice of gender identity. According to the new guidelines parents of transgender students are part of a collaborative effort to meet the needs of their children while on campus.
But critics said the effort to accommodate transgender students’ restroom and locker room needs are as vague as in the original.
The new version states, “Each accommodation request will be reviewed and addressed on a case-by-case basis based upon the particular circumstances of the individual student and school facilities. The goal will be the creation of a safe and supportive environment for students impacted by the accommodation with due recognition of the privacy rights of all students.”
The new rules add, “As a general rule, in all facilities or activities when students may be separated by gender, transgender students may participate in accordance with the student individual support plan. Interscholastic athletic activities should be addressed by the University Interscholastic League (“UIL”) Regulations, if applicable.”
Use of single-sex restrooms and locker rooms by transgender students was a major concern of FWISD parents.
Julia Keyes, a mother of five and leader in Stand for Fort Worth, does not trust FWISD administrators or the board of trustees to keep private, single-sex facilities segregated by biological sex.
“On the substance, the new policy is significantly improved,” Keyes told the TEXAN. “Unfortunately Superintendent Scribner and the board of trustees have broken the public trust. And really that is the issue—Fort Worth parents and taxpayers simply do not trust this superintendent and board anymore.”
Vigilance is necessary to prevent similar action—from the implementation of policy guidelines to classroom curriculum—in other Texas school districts, Asmussen said, adding, “We have received information that shows parents are unaware of certain controversial lessons and have not been given the opportunity to opt out of them.”
The local policy, as in other school districts like Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina which was enacted in defiance of state law, mirror the Obama Administration’s redefinition of the word “sex” in the Title IX federal regulation. A regulation created in 1972, Title IX forbids discrimination based on a person’s sex. According to Obama “sex” means sexual orientation and gender identity, and his administration has threatened to withdraw federal funds from any public school that does not accommodate gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students.
Calling Obama’s directive an executive overreach, the State of Texas in May led a 11-state lawsuit against the federal government in an effort to repeal the president’s order. Earlier this month, 10 additional states filed a similar suit bringing the number of states challenging the president’s usurpation of states’ rights to 21.