Behind Closed Doors: Coppell school continues gender-inclusive bathroom policy while lawmakers delay action
May 2nd, 2017 / By: Bonnie Pritchett | TEXAN Correspondent / comments
COPPELL—Parents in a north Texas school district learned last week that for almost a year their district has allowed students to use the bathroom that conforms to their gender identity. It is the latest revelation in the gender-inclusive restrooms controversy that has kept parents in the dark and legislators seeking remedies.
Reports of a 5-year-old biological boy dressed as a girl and using the girls’ restroom at a Coppell Independent School District campus prompted local and state representatives to take the district to task. Proponents of legislation that would prohibit the establishment of gender-inclusive policies in Texas public schools used the revelation to demand action on two bills currently stalled in the Texas House.
“There’s no justification for this,” Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Farmers Branch, told the TEXAN.
A mid-April call from the mom of a kindergartener brought the issue to his attention. The woman recounted an exchange with her daughter about a female classmate who “has a penis.”
That discovery reportedly occurred in the girls’ restroom when the daughter saw the classmate—who had not closed the stall door—urinating while standing.
Rinaldi said Superintendent Mike Waldrip and the school board allowed the practice without informing parents. District administrators told him the policy complies with the President Obama May 2016 guidance letter recommending all public schools create gender-inclusive bathroom policies or lose federal funds.
That guidance has been rescinded, but CISD will maintain the policy until further guidance is provided, Rinaldi was told.
The TEXAN contacted CISD spokesperson Amanda McCune for comment but did not receive a response before deadline.
Coppell ISD is in Rinaldi’s district and skirts the boundaries of Rep. Ron Simmons, R- Carrollton and author of House Bill 2899, which would establish a uniform policy governing private facility use in public buildings including schools.
Rinaldi supports the stronger language of the Senate Bill 6, often called “the bathroom bill,” but would support a House floor debate on either one, but both are languishing in the House. SB 6 passed the Senate March 16 but has not been assigned to a House committee. HB2899 had a public hearing April 19 yet has not been voted out of committee.
Supporters blame the lack of action on House leadership, specifically Speaker of the House Joe Straus, who has publicly opposed both bills as bad for Texas business. The National Football League and the National College Athletic Association have threatened to pull events from Texas if the legislature becomes law.
Rinaldi said the sporting organizations are entitled to their opinions but not to any share of the state’s special grant to fund for future events should they follow through with their threats.
The May 6 CISD school board election could force board members to address the issue. Ron Hansen, candidate for CISD school board Place 4, said he would repeal the policy if elected. Hansen’s challenger incumbent Thom Hulme has served on the board for nine years. According to Rinaldi, the school board knew about the policy.
Advocates for a state-wide policy that standardizes the use of public restrooms point to Coppell ISD as the latest example in a growing list of rogue school districts that will continue to establish gender inclusive policies, without parental consent, effecting the privacy and safety of all its students.
“It’s ironic that the school district only cares about the privacy of the identity of some students but not the bathroom and locker room privacy of everyone else,” said Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values. “Laws designed to prevent discrimination should not be interpreted in a way that puts children in harm’s way.”