A matter of public safety: Dan Patrick continues the bathroom battle

Patrick for web

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, above, encouraged public schools to tell President Obama that they “reject his 30 pieces of silver,” and to ignore suggested federal guidelines for protecting transgender students. (Tammye Nash/ Dallas Voice)


Tammye Nash  |  Managing Editor


“This is a matter of public safety.”

That’s what Texas Values policy analyst Nicole Hudgens said this morning on Dallas’ Fox 4 News about the battle over bathrooms raging across the country, and right here in North Texas in the Fort Worth Independent School District.

And you know what, Nicole Hudgens is right. Only, not in the way she claims.

On Tuesday (May 10), Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick showed up in Fort Worth for a press conference condemning the comprehensive guidelines Superintendent Kent Scribner issued in late April explaining the process for implementing FWISD’s 2011 anti-bullying policy related to transgender students.

Early this morning (Friday, may 13), the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice sent out a “Dear Colleague” letter offering guidance for schools nationwide on how, specifically, to prevent discrimination against transgender students. And Patrick, in Dallas for the Texas GOP Convention, hopped right up to hold another press conference in which he declared that the question of what bathroom or locker room transgender children are allowed to use at school is “the biggest issue facing families and schools since prayer was taken out of the schools.

(Point of fact, Lt. Governor: Prayer organized by faculty/staff in which all students are required to participate is not allowed in public schools, because it discriminates against those who have different religious beliefs from the majority. But no one has taken prayer out of schools. Student-led events with voluntary participation, like the See You at the Pole events, are certainly allowed. And go to any class on any test day, and I can guarantee someone there is praying!)

Patrick when on to declare that the letter — letter containing suggestions, not policy; but then, Dan Patrick doesn’t know the difference between a policy and a guideline, either — is “the most damaging domestic policy [President Obama] has put forth, and that’s saying something with this president” who enacted “Obamacare.”

Patrick ramped up the fear-mongering rhetoric even higher then, saying that the president is stealing food from the mouths of poor children since the federal dollars that could be withheld from schools that don’t protect transgender children is used primarily for free meal programs. The president is “attacking parents,” Patrick claimed, and forcing 14-year-old girls to shower with 14-year-old boys.

Patrick also noted that he’s telling all the school superintendents in Texas that the letter is not law, just “a recommendation with a threat,” and that they should ignore the letter from the U.S. Department of Education and not implement any of the suggestions. Don’t compromise, he told them, and don’t worry, those evils feds “are not coming and taking our children” on his watch.

The lieutenant governor urged Texas schools not to take “Obama’s 30 pieces of silver,” and not to let the president “blackmail” them. Just hold on until Donald Trump’s in the White House, because President Donald will know what to do!

Oh, and one more thing: The U.S. Department of Education sending a letter to schools with suggestions on how to protect transgender children is a government overreach and the federal government trying to meddle with local control. But Patrick descending on Fort Worth to insist that the local school district superintendent resign and the board repeal its anti-bullying policy is justified because these bathroom battles are “a state and a national issue.” And anyone who questioned the validity of him interjecting himself into FWISD business is a hypocrite.

He said more in his Friday morning press conference, but that’s the main gist of it: Federal over-reach … blahblahblah … coming for our children … blahblahblah … blackmail … blahblahblah … hypocrites … blahblahblah … and on and on.

But here’s the fact of it all: He is full of crap. So is Nicole Hudgens. Because as much as they and their ilk want to insist that this “isn’t about transgender people,” it is.

It’s totally about how a bunch of bigots don’t like transgender people because they don’t understand transgender people, and they don’t like the gays and lesbians anyway, and they are pissed off the homos can get married now but there’s nothing they can do about that because of the Supreme Court, so they are going after the trans people now because they are the easiest target.

They are trying to turn trans people into the big, scary, snarly monster in the closet — or in this case, in the bathroom — that’s just waiting for you to turn out the lights so they can come rushing out to rape their wives and eat their children. Why? Because when there is a monster, you have to have a monster-slayer, and people like Dan Patrick and Nicole Hudgens want people to think they are the heroes who will kill the monsters and keep them safe.

Except, in truth, they are the monsters.

But Nicole Hudgens, as I said at the outset, is right about one thing: This is a public safety issue. It’s about the safety of transgender people — men, women and children — who have, indeed, been and remain easy targets for discrimination, hatred and violence.

Take this stat, for instance, which Resource Center reminded me off this morning in a press release praising the letter from the Obama administration: According to the 2013 Texas School Climate Survey conducted by GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network), 60 percent of students surveyed have experienced verbal harassment over their gender identity art school. And 23 percent of that harassment came from school staff members.

About one in eight — one in eight, people! — transgender students report having been physically assaulted at school, although most of the incidents went unreported because the students didn’t think anyone would take them seriously or do anything to protect them. And a national study conducted in 2007 indicated that more than half of all trans youth have attempted suicide at least once by the time they turn 20.

(Of course, Dan Patrick noted Tuesday that only about 1 percent of the FWISD students are transgender, implying that that’s not enough to warrant taking action to protect them.)

Nell Gaither over at Trans Pride Initiative today sent a statement praising the letter as well. And in her statement, she cited the 2011 study, “Injustice at Every Turn,” which found that nationwide, 78 percent of students expressing a trans identity or gender nonconformity in school face discrimination. Of those, 35 percent reported being assaulted, including 12 percent being sexually assaulted.

The rates in Texas, according to the study, are similar or higher: 85 percent experiencing harassment, 46 percent being physically assaulted and 9 percent experiencing sexual assault.

The study went on to note that trans and gender non-conforming adults have an overall lifetime attempted suicide rate of 41 percent, but that increases to 51 percent among those who have been harassed, 64 percent for those who were physically assaulted, and 68 percent for those who were sexually assaulted.

Last year, at least 21 transgender people were reported murdered in the United States. The actual number was likely much higher, because many such murders go unreported and/or the victims are misgendered in police and media reports.

From 2013 to the end of 2015, 53 transgender people were murdered, and not a single one was prosecuted or reported as a hate crime, according to a report by Human Rights Campaign.

Attempted suicide rates as high as 68 percent; 53 people murdered in two years. Yes, Nicole Hudgens, protections for transgender students are definitely a public safety issue. But it’s the safety of the transgender people that’s at risk, not yours.

It’s time you and Dan Patrick and all the self-involved and bigoted haters out there figure that out.

—  Tammye Nash

Dan Patrick coming to Fort Worth to protest ISD’s trans guidelines


Dan Patrick is coming to save FWISD from the transgenders

Fairness Fort Worth was already asking for LGBT people and their allies turn for the Fort Worth ISD board meeting tonight (Tuesday, May 10) to show support for guidelines on how the district’s personnel and students are expected to interact with transgender students, faculty and staff, including guidelines on public bathroom use.

Now Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — who issued a statement yesterday calling for FWISD Superintendent Kent Scribner to resign for putting his personal political agenda ahead of the well-being of the district’s students — has announced he is coming to Fort Worth tonight to hold a press conference outside the school district’s administration building to, well, to say why his personal political agenda should be put ahead of the well-being of FWISD students. You know, this school district that Patrick has no children in, in a city where Patrick does not live.

There have been rumors that Glenn Beck, the right-wing radio host who also does not live in Fort Worth and does not have children in the district, will attend tonight’s meeting as well.

The guidelines, which have been under construction for about a year, are not new policy, but simply a more detailed explanation of existing policy. As such, they needed only Superintendent Kent Scribner’s signature to go into effect, rather than approval by the FWISD’s board.

Despite the uproar and Patrick’s call for Scribner to resign, FWISD School Board President Jacinto “Cinto” Ramos Jr. issued a statement Monday declaring the board’s support for Scribner:

“Mi querida gente. Rest assured, the safety of ALL children is our highest priority on the Board. We are completely capable of handling this in Fort Worth. We are applying the existing policy to make sure ALL children feel safe at school. We are here to look out for ALL children; not some, not most, but ALL children. ‪#‎AsiDerechito‬ con puro amor…no odio. ‪#‎WeGotThis‬.”

(Not sure about the translation, but I believe it says, basically, “We’re gonna do this right, with pure love, no hate.” The #WeGotThis is pretty obvious.)

Fairness Fort Worth President David Mack Henderson today re-issued the call for supporters to flood the board meeting tonight, and to wear red. But he also stressed the importance of supporters of Scribner and of the guidelines, behaving respectfully:

“If you are coming to the FWISD board meeting today we (LGBTQA community leaders) are asking people to please wear red, and we urge people to avoid letting agitators press our buttons. Some would like nothing more than to distract us. No thanks. Our kids come first. That includes those present tonight for athletic honors and also their teachers of the year who we rely upon. We want our message to be positive, clear and unequivocally grateful to Supt. Scribner and our trustees for true leadership. Our focus is to make sure ALL our students have equal and safe access to education with dignity. Please, help us keep our message clear and constructive and concise. Thank you all for making Cowtown proud!”



—  Tammye Nash

FWISD superintendent signs new guidelines protecting trans students

FWISD Guidelines art

From left: FWISD Superintendent Kent Scribner, LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S. President Sharon Herrera and Fairness Fort Worth President David Mack Henderson

Tammye Nash  |  Managing Editor


Fort Worth Independent School District Superintendent Kent Scribner this week announced that he has signed a set of detailed guidelines designed to protect transgender students by clarifying the district’s existing anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies.

Clint Bond, FWISD’s external and emergency communications director, said Scribner made the announcement at the Tuesday night, April 26 meeting of the district’s Board of Trustees. “He just wanted the board to know that he had signed these comprehensive guidelines,” Bond said.

In 2011, the district, then under the leadership of interim Superintendent Walter Dansby, the FWISD school board expanded the district’s anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies to include protections based on gender identity and gender expression. Protections based on sexual orientation were already included.

Bond said the new guidelines were designed to give “more specificity” to existing policy.

Sharon Herrera, founder and president of LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S, on Wednesday, April 27, praised Scribner for issuing the guidelines, saying the superintendent “is indeed walking his talk. He genuinely means all students, preparing them for college, career and community leadership.”

She added, “I applaud FWISD and anticipate that along with these guidelines, there will be training.”

LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S is an organization created to “foster the well-being of LGBTQ students and staff in the public schools of Fort Worth and surrounding communities by promoting safe, egalitarian and supportive environments and policies, Herrera explained. She said the organization works to provide LGBTQ students and their families with resources related to LGBTQ issues and safe spaces for social and personal development.

Herrera noted that her organization continues to hear reports from local districts of bullying, not only from students but also adults, including teachers and administrators. “Until our LGBTQ youth can feel safe on their school campuses, our work is not done,” she said.

Fairness Fort Worth President David Mack Henderson said Wednesday that he and his organization “applaud Dr. Scribner and his staff for working to insure our most vulnerable students have both equal protection and opportunity.”

Henderson continued, “My read is that FWISD is making their proactive, inclusive position clear. They not only intend to comply with federal Title IX guidelines, they’ve elucidated best practices to accomplish just that. The beauty of these guidelines is that one group of students isn’t being compromised to help another. They’ve actually found a means to assure privacy for every student, regardless of their views, while still providing equal access.

“These guidelines serve as an excellent template for other schools seeking a reasonable solution to this issue,” Henderson continued. “My hope is that other school districts quickly implement similar guidelines so we can all get on with the business of educating our kids.”

FWISD’s expanded policy notes that the district “prohibits discrimination, including harassment, against any student on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, national origin, disability, or any other basis prohibited by law. The district prohibits dating violence, as defined by this policy. Retaliation against anyone involved in the complaint process is a violation of district policy and is prohibited.

The guidelines — which, Henderson pointed out, can be put into force with just the superintendent’s signature whereas a policy change requires a vote by the board of trustees — reiterates a number of points related to the nondiscrimination policy while elaborating on protections for transgender students.

The guidelines “seek to ensure that no student experiences an unsafe or unwelcome learning environment,” while acknowledging “Transgender youth may experience additional challenges at school” and that “support from classmates and school personnel may help transgender students who otherwise feel ostracized or disengaged.”

The eight-page guideline package presented to the board pointed to “growing support for research indicating that enforcing fixed notions of what it means to be a boy or a girl may have negative effects on children,” especially in a learning environment. The school district is implementing the guidelines, the statement noted, “to provide direction for personnel to address issues that may arise concerning the needs of and challenges facing transgender students, and to foster an inclusive and productive learning environment for all students.”

The guidelines include an extensive list of terms and definitions regarding transgender people and issues, but also points out that “not all people will fit a particular definition or pattern. Instead of focusing on what definition applies to a particular person, school personnel are required to show respect for the student’s desires and wishes to the extent practical so as to foster a productive educational process for all.”

The guidelines also lay out specific reporting procedures in the event of complaints, and names a specific person — Employee Relations Director Rufino Mendoza — as the Title IX coordinator for the district and the person to whom complaints should be reported.

The guidelines require faculty and staff to “acknowledge the gender identity that each student consistently and uniformly asserts,” without need of a medical or mental health diagnosis or treatment. Campus counselors are designated as the allies for students who need or want to discuss gender identity issues.

The guidelines also require district personnel to use a student’s preferred name and pronouns unless otherwise required by law for record keeping purposes. “Continued intentional misuse of a student’s new name and pronouns coupled with reference to the student’s former gender,” the guidelines state, “undermines the student’s desires and is contrary to the district’s goal of treating students with dignity and respect.”

The guidelines stress that a student’s name and gender on official records can be changed only with a legal court order. But no such order is necessary for personnel to use the student’s preferred name and pronouns and gender identity.

If you don’t know how the student prefers to be identified, ask them in private, the guidelines direct. And students have the right to keep their actual or perceived gender identity and expression private, including from their parents or guardians. Only share such information if the student gives his or her permission, and that goes for sharing the information with parents or guardians, too, the guidelines say.

“Transitioning is a very private matter,” the guidelines warn. “Students may choose whether or not to have their parents participate in this process. In fact, notifying a parent or guardian carries risks for the students in some cases,” so school personnel need to talk to the student about what to tell the parents.

Regarding restroom facilities, the guidelines say, “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, gender neutral restroom or the opportunity to visit the facility when other students are not present. A single user restroom, however, must not be given as the only option for transgender students who need or desire increased privacy.”

The schools are required to make similar accommodations for locker rooms, and the guidelines prohibit school personnel from using dress codes to prevent a transgender student from living full time “in the role consistent with his or her gender identity.”

The new guidelines also require schools to give all students, including transgender students “equitable access to [all] activities and programs,” including cheerleading, homecoming, prom and sports. But the guidelines acknowledge that “UIL may have ultimate authority to determine the team on which a student can participate in league play.”

That, Henderson said, remains a problem because of rules recently adopted by the University Interscholastic League, which governs intermural sports in Texas public schools, which requires students’ gender be determined for the purpose of such sports teams based on their physical gender at birth.

“The new UIL rules still leaves districts in the untenable position of either complying with Title IX for federal funding or with the sports authority to qualify for team play,” Henderson said. “The UIL rule is clearly in violation of federal law. The question remaining is will UIL and UT, their host organization, force Texas schools and trans students to pay the price for UIL’s illegal rule?”

He concluded, “When we permit loud voices to err on the side of fear, the result is hysteria. I say we don’t let them play that game with us anymore. We’re done reacting to every nonsensical cry of social Armageddon.

“These are our lives, our families and our children, too,” Henderson declared, “and we get to set the tone and the narrative from now on, period.”

For the complete text of the new guidelines, go here.

—  Tammye Nash

EXCLUSIVE: Former FWISD Superintendent Walter Dansby to challenge longtime trustee


Former Fort Worth ISD President Christene Moss.

Sources have confirmed that former Fort Worth Independent School District Superintendent Walter Dansby will challenge incumbent Christene Moss in her re-election race.

Dansby had worked for the district for nearly 40 years in various capacities until his resignation as superintendent last summer. His last day as a district employee is Saturday, Jan. 31.

Moss was first elected to the board in 1990 and is a past board president. She was one of three board members who voted against Dansby’s resignation. She is married to former Fort Worth Councilman Frank Moss.

Filing for municipal elections runs today (Wednesday, Jan. 28) through Feb. 27.

—  James Russell

WATCH: Joel Burns on new bullying law

Almost two years after a viral speech made him an instant celebrity, gay Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns is enjoying another round of TV appearances this week to discuss the state’s new anti-bullying law.

Burns has been vocal about his personal experience with bullying when he was teen at Crowley High School and about the need for bullying legislation. He was on WFAA last week and KTVT this morning to discuss House Bill 1492, which the Texas Legislature passed last year. It went into effect Sept. 1 of this year.

During today’s interview, Burns talked about being beaten up his high school gym as a freshman at 13 and his speech before City Council almost two years ago.

“And I realized that that is a lifelong impact,” he said about bullying. “It’s something you carry with you for the rest of your life.”

Burns said he is “very proud” of the new bill, which he lobbied for in Austin, but he called it a baseline and encouraged parents to contact their school boards to help add on to the bill’s requirements.

The bill does not include LGBT protections, but both Dallas and Fort Worth ISD have included LGBT protections in their policies.

Burns will be back on KTVT at 4 p.m. today.

Watch the videos below.

—  Dallasvoice

Investigation into allegations against FWISD teacher expected to conclude today or Thursday

Fort Worth Independent School District Board of Trustees member Dr. Carlos Vasquez (top right) told Dallas Voice in a phone call this afternoon that he’s been told by administrators that an investigation into allegations against Western Hills High School teacher Kristopher Franks should be completed by today or Thursday.

Franks is the WHHS teacher who wrote a notice of infraction against freshman student Dakota Ary (bottom right) and sent Ary to the principal’s office after Ary said during Franks’ German I class that he, Ary, is a Christian and believes homosexuality is wrong. The vice principal then suspended Ary. However, the current investigation doesn’t involve the incident with Ary.

Steven Poole, deputy executive director for the United Educators Association of Texas, a teachers union, confirmed Tuesday that other, unrelated allegations had been made against Franks, and that Franks had been placed on paid administrative leave for the duration of the investigation. Vasquez said today that any time allegations are made against a teacher, those allegations have to be investigated, and it is routine for the teacher in question to be placed on paid administrative leave.

Franks has declined to speak to the media on the advice of his union representative. Poole said because the investigation is ongoing, he’s not at liberty to discuss the details of the allegations made against Franks or comment further on the case.

However, Ary and his mother, with the help of Liberty Counsel attorney Matt Krause, went immediately to the press, telling their side of the story in several TV interviews and saying Franks and the school had violated the student’s right to freedom of speech. The case quickly became a rallying point for the religious right.

With Krause representing them, Ary and his mother protested the suspension, and school administrators later reversed their decision.

Ary said in  media interviews that he made the comment quietly to a classmate sitting next to him in response to a discussion going on in the class at the time. But Franks told friends shortly after the incident that there was no discussion involving homosexuality at the time, and that Ary made the comment loudly while looking directly at Franks. Franks also told friends that the comment was only the latest in an ongoing series of incidents in which Ary and a group of three of his friends have made anti-gay comments to and about him.

—  admin

Group says FW teacher was harassed by student he punished for saying homosexuality is wrong

We’re working on a more in-depth story for this Friday’s print edition about the case of a Fort Worth school district teacher who’s accused of suspending a student for saying that homosexuality is wrong. But for now, we thought we’d go ahead and share the below info from Marvin Vann, a member of the group LGBTQ S.A.V.E.S., formed about a year ago to protect LGBT students and teachers in Tarrant County from anti-gay harassment.

Vann is calling on members of the LGBT community to speak out in support of the teacher in this case, whom he identifies as Kristopher Franks. Contact info for Fort Worth ISD administrators is at the end of Vann’s post:

—  John Wright