Texas Lt. Gov. Targets Fort Worth Schools Chief Over Transgender Guidelines

May 10, 2016
Originally published on May 10, 2016 5:39 pm

Updated at 5:30 p.m. ET.

Texas' lieutenant governor is calling for the resignation of the Fort Worth Independent School District superintendent over guidelines intended to support transgender students.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's push follows a national spate of legislation regarding trans people's access to restrooms as well as protections for LGBT people — notably in North Carolina and Missouri.

The Fort Worth guidelines, announced on April 26, call for school district personnel to acknowledge and support students' gender identity and expression, and they address access to restroom and locker room facilities. The report also says that "failure to comply ... may result in adverse employment action."

The lieutenant governor said Monday that the superintendent, Kent Paredes Scribner, "has lost his focus and thereby his ability to lead the Fort Worth ISD." Patrick's statement continued:

"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.' ...

"Campus safety should be of paramount concern for anyone in his position. Every parent, especially those of young girls, should be outraged."

Tuesday, Scribner told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram he did not intend to resign. He told the paper's editorial board, "Children shouldn't have to wait for their schools to feel safe and full of respect." He added:

"I know this is a tough issue. People have strong feelings on both sides. At the end of the day, the parents of this community expect me to focus on students, so we're focusing on students."

The lieutenant governor criticized Scribner for acting "unilaterally," and a school board member told WFAA-TV that she had received complaints from parents who said that "they weren't allowed to publicly comment on the issue." Patrick said parents should take their concerns to a school board meeting Tuesday night.

"The district considers the new rules 'guidelines,' which do not require a vote by the school board," NBC in Dallas-Fort Worth reports. School Board President Jacinto Ramos Jr. told NBC in a statement:

"We have enormous confidence in Superintendent Kent P. Scribner, his team and our Board. We are focused on creating a strong, safe, and productive learning environment for ALL students."

The Texas Tribune says the district had been working on the guidelines for about a year, while NBC reported that "the district had been working on a more inclusive policy since 2014 and drafted a new set of guidelines last summer. The official said Scribner told the school board he signed those guidelines."

Scribner's appointment was unanimously approved by the board in September, as WFAA reported at the time. The ABC affiliate said Scribner previously led the largest school district in Arizona, and he currently serves on the President's Advisory Commission on Education Excellence for Hispanics.

Here are some key parts of the guidelines, which were published in full by NBC:

  • The document opens with a series of definitions about gender identity and expression and being transgender.
  • It requires district personnel "to acknowledge the gender identity that each student consistently and uniformly asserts."
  • It identifies the campus counselor as "a designated ally for students who wish to discuss these issues."
  • The guidelines have a section on privacy, which "includes keeping a student's actual or perceived gender identity and expression private. School personnel may only share this information on a need-to-know basis or as the student directs. This includes sharing information with the student's parent or guardian."
  • Here's the restroom part, which says students should use the facility that corresponds with their gender identity, but that they should also have access to a single-stall restroom or a space with similar privacy:

"Students must feel comfortable and safe in the use of restrooms and locker room facilities. Under no circumstances may a school require a student to use facilities that are potentially unsafe for the student. If other students feel uncomfortable sharing a restroom with a transgender student or if a student has a need or desire for increased privacy, the school must allow the student(s) access to a single stall restroom, a gender neutral restroom, or the opportunity to visit the facility when other students are not present. The single-user restroom, however, must not be given as the only option for transgender students who need or desire increased privacy."

  • "For physical education classes that are gender-based, transgender students shall participate in physical education by their gender identity asserted at school."
  • "School personnel must be role models of these guidelines. Wherever arbitrary gender dividers can be avoided, they must be eliminated."
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