Fort Worth, TX to Involve Parents in Transgender Student Decisions

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

The sixth largest school district in the state of Texas has issued a new version of guidance meant to protect transgender students from discrimination, stating that it will work with parents on matters that affect LGBT students.

Fort Worth Superintendent Kent Scribner said that the guidelines, which have been condensed from eight pages down to just two, were reissued in an effort to offer support to students on a “case-by-case basis.”

Guidelines that had previously been issued in April noted the privacy involved in transitioning to a different gender, adding that it would be left up to students to decide whether to involve their parents in the matter.  The policy went on to say that informing parents could cause conflicts for students who may then be punished.

Scribner said the new guidelines involve the parents by default, unless doing so could cause harm to the students.  The revision was made after a number of community meetings where “it was clear there was much misinformation and misunderstanding about this policy.”

Meanwhile, a non-binding opinion was issued last month by State Attorney General Ken Paxton stating that restroom guidelines were in violation of state law because it instructed school personnel not to out students to their parents without their consent.  Paxton said this was in direct violation of a statute that does not allow school employees to “encourage or coerce” a child to withhold information from their parents, writes Zach Ford for Think Progress.

He stated that the district demoted “parents to a subordinate status” by implementing a policy without taking into account their input or consent, writes David Warren for LGBTQ Nation.

However, a statement released by Paxton late last week applauded the guideline revisions, saying they now comply with state law.

“Today’s decision by the Fort Worth Independent School District is a victory for parents’ rights and student safety. I am pleased the FWISD superintendent and school board have listened to parents in the school district and pulled down their existing transgender policy,” said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

The bathroom policy in the district allows transgender students to use a single-stall restroom or access to a restroom when other students are not around.  It is not left up to students to determine which bathroom they would like to use, though; an administrator, parent, or other adult must be involved in the decision.

The district remains part of an 11-state lawsuit accusing the federal government of turning schools into “laboratories for a massive social experiment.”  The suit was brought on after President Barack Obama introduced a directive to public schools allowing transgender students to use the bathroom the corresponds to their gender identity.

Scribner stood up for the policy late last week, shutting down the claims that special accommodations were being made for these students.  He said that the same sort of arrangements were made for students who are obese, incontinent, or have anxiety.

“At the core this is an anti-bullying policy,” he said. “I’m an educator and not an activist. This is about protecting students from bullying so that we focus on the business of teaching and learning.”