Texas School District Approves ‘Transgender Student Guidelines,’ Ignites Firestorm With Parents

By Austin Roscoe Published on May 10, 2016

Update: For The Stream’s coverage of Tuesday night’s Forth Worth school board meeting, click here.

The Fort Worth Independent School District (FWISD) is expected to draw large crowds to its regular board meeting Tuesday night, after silently approving a controversial set of “Transgender Student Guidelines.”

The Guidelines, signed into effect April 19, were quietly announced at the board’s April 26 meeting, without opportunity for public discussion or even being listed on the night’s agenda.

Under the new policy, a student is allowed to use the restrooms and participate in the sports that are “consistent with his or her gender identity.” In addition, teachers are instructed to abandon “gender references” and to keep “a student’s actual or perceived gender identity and expression private” — even from the student’s parents.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick spoke out Monday against the new guidelines, and called for the resignation of FWISD Superintendent Dr. Kent Scribner. “After less than a year as superintendent,” Patrick said, “Dr. Scribner has lost his focus and thereby his ability to lead the Fort Worth ISD. He has placed his own personal political agenda ahead of the more than 86,000 students attending 146 schools in the district by unilaterally adopting ‘Transgender Student Guidelines.’”

Scribner countered Tuesday, saying that he would not back down. In an interview with The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Scribner said he is proud of the Guidelines and doesn’t think they can wait. “I think they provide educators with the ability to make all students more comfortable and confident in a learning environment,” he expressed. “Children shouldn’t have to wait for their schools to feel safe and full of respect.”

“Every parent, especially those of young girls, should be outraged,” Patrick said. “I call upon the parents within the Fort Worth ISD to take immediate steps to repeal this stealthy scheme and remove Dr. Scribner from his post.”

Patrick has announced plans to attend Tuesday night’s meeting and address the media.

Several trustees have reported receiving flak for the measure. After being contacted by several local citizens, trustee Judy Needham said that “the community should have gotten the opportunity to speak.”

The district’s next meeting will be this Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. (in the Board of Education complex at 2903, Shotts Street, Fort Worth, TX 76107). Though the controversy is sure to surface, discussion of the Guidelines has not been formally added to the agenda.

Prominent leaders of the Fort Worth area were quick to speak up as well. Robert Morris, the founding pastor of Gateway Church, sent out an email Monday night calling for the large congregation to pray and consider attending the meeting. “As Scripture commands us,” Pastor Robert said, “we are to be both ‘salt and light’ in our community. Thank you for being proactive with your prayers and letting your voice be heard by our elected officials.”

Proponents of the measure, on the other hand, have hailed it as a cause for celebration. Fairness Fort Worth President David Henderson called the guidelines an “excellent template for other schools seeking a reasonable solution to this issue.”

The controversy then made its way onto The Glenn Beck Program (Beck lives in the area) after the Fairness Fort Worth group alleged he would be attending the board meeting. “The only reason I found out about this,” Beck said on his show Monday, “is because [co-host] Pat brings this in today. And I read it.”

The measure is the latest development in a nationwide transgender controversy. North Carolina has received blowback after passing a bill in February affirming the longstanding custom of having individuals use only the bathroom corresponding with their biological sex. And the department store Target has had over 1.2 million people pledge to boycott the store after it announced a policy allowing transgendered individuals to use the facilities that align with their gender identity.

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