‘Deport Hate’ bike ride, picnic planned for Tyler’s Bergfeld Park on Sunday

LGBT people and their allies in and around Tyler will gather Sunday, May 22, in Tyler’s Bergfeld Park for the “Deport Hate: Bike or Hike Pride Ride.”

The gathering is being staged to “show some love” to a bicyclist who rides regularly through the city’s Azalea District, near the park, wearing a shirt that says “Deport LGBT.”

“This isn’t a gay pride rally, though the themes are to show LGBT faces and our allies,” organizer Hannah Morris wrote on the Facebook page announcing the event. “This is pride in our city, in our relationships with each other, in how we handle ugliness. And in Tyler, Texas, we come together and show support for one another to handle ugliness. Because we are proud citizens of this beautiful city.”

Bergfeld Park

Bergfeld Park, located near the center of town, is the park from which 23-year-old Nicholas West was abducted in 1993 before being driven to a gravel pit in Noonday and brutally murdered. His death made national headlines and helped spark efforts to pass an LGBT-inclusive hate crimes bill in Texas.

Jenell Volmer, who grew up in Tyler and was friends with Nicholas West, now lives in Austin. But she said she will be returning to her hometown for the rally on Sunday.

Nicholas West

Murder victim Nicholas West

“I came out on the front page of the Tyler paper after being interviewed at the Stop the Hate Rally we held after Nick was killed. I became an activist for a short period but my career took off and I gladly moved away from Tyler. … I still struggle with the emotions from that time and it continues to impact me to this day,” Volmer told Dallas Voice in an email, explaining why she will be returning to Tyler to attend the rally.

In a post on Facebook, Volmer noted that she was bullied and harassed and even assaulted in high school because she was gay. She said another classmate was “chased down by a car and shot in the head,” because he was gay. And while those events and Nicholas West’s murder happened more than 20 years ago, the cyclist’s jersey and the January 2015 murder of trans woman Ty Underwood in Tyler prove the hate still exists.

“I plan to show up in Tyler this Sunday on Harvey Milk’s birthday to join this event to peacefully show East Texas that families and every day people oppose this message of exclusion and hate,” Volmer wrote. “Please join me in Tyler.”

The event begins at 11 a.m. at the park, at 1510 S. College St. in Tyler. Participants who are willing and able will participate in a hike or bike excursion along a route through the Azalea District that’s less than a mile long and chosen with those who are differently-abled in mind. After the bike/hike, participants return to the park to continue with their picnic.

Organizers have asked that those who attend keep in mind that this a peaceful gathering, intended to not be confrontational but rather show the diverse face of the LGBT community to the Tyler community at large. They have asked that those attending be mindful of not littering (no confetti please) and that if they encounter the “Deport LGBT” cyclist, not to engage him in any way.

They also encourage participants to wear “their fanciest handmade ‘DEPORT HATE’ shirts.”

—  Tammye Nash

AG Paxton issues yet another statement on Department of Education’s guidance on trans issues

Ken Paxton

Texas AG Ken Paxton

In his latest effort to protect the innocent, helpless women and children of Texas and the rest of the U.S., Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has issued yet another statement condemning the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice’s letter — issued last week to in response to requests from school officials around the country for such guidance on how to deal with transgender students — after having joined two other equally concerned and protective state AGs in sending a letter to the Obama administration.

The other two officials signing the letter to the administration are Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt, and West Virginia AG Patrick Morrissey.

Paxton said, in part:

“The so-called ‘significant guidance’ issued by the Obama Administrations raises more questions than it answers, just as it creates concerns among anyone who believes sex is a biological fact and not a personal preference. As billions of dollars appear to be at stake based upon schools’ compliance with this guidance, the Obama Administration must be extremely clear about what is and isn’t allowed, and explain how their actions do not add requirements to the law, as their letter claims.”

Read the full text of their letter to the administration here.

—  Tammye Nash

Lives in the balance

Death of local trans musician makes the cost of hate obvious

Leslie McMurrayBack in 1986, Jackson Browne released an anti-war song called “Lives In The Balance.” The lyrics of that 30-year-old song ring just as true today in the fight for transgender equality as they did in ’86 when the Iran-Contra scandal was coming to light: Lives are in the balance and people are dying.

The last couple of weeks have been pretty insane. My Facebook feed has been relentless with reminders that I am transgender and there are people in power and in pulpits that don’t want me to exist.

Just in the past few weeks:

• North Carolina passed HB2 restricting transgender bathroom rights.

• Pay Pal, Bank of America and dozens of other companies came out in vocal support of trans people and opposing HB2.

• Calls to the Trans Lifeline nearly doubled after HB2 passed. (If you are in crisis, there is help. Please please please call 877-565-8860.)

• Oxford, Ala. passed a local ordinance similar to HB2.

• Jim Pruitt, mayor of Rockwall, Texas tried to get a discriminatory ordinance passed. It failed. I was asked to appear on WFAA Channel 8 news to talk about the hearing in Rockwall there.

• Target reiterated its policy in support of trans people.

• The extreme Christian fringe nutjobs announced a boycott of Target and sent men into women’s restrooms to try and make a point. They failed. The American Family Association — listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center — initiated this boycott.

• The Fort Worth Independent School District reiterated its policy of inclusion and respect for all students and issued guidelines to aid in following this already-existing policy.

• I appeared on radio in Sacramento, Calif. to talk about the issue of trans women and which bathroom they should use.

• Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick descends on Fort Worth for a hastily-thrown-together press conference to demand the resignation of FWISD Superintendent Kent Scribner over his support of equality.

• Dan Patrick speaks at the GOP convention in Dallas and goes on a media blitz to declare that trans students (who make up 0.3 percent of the population) using the bathroom is the biggest issue facing Texas schools.

• Similar legislation restricting access to sex-segregated facilities is pending in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin. Such bills have failed in Louisiana, Mississippi, South Dakota and Virginia.

And then, on Friday, May 13, trans woman Krissy Arnold takes her own life. Krissy played bass in a Dallas band called Mercury Rocket. I didn’t know her but her death affected me deeply.

Ordinarily, when someone commits suicide, it leaves those left behind wondering why. But in Krissy’s case, I don’t think I need to ask. I think I know.

I don’t think I’ve met a trans person yet that hasn’t at least seriously considered suicide — if not actually attempted it. Including me.

Look, it’s not that we are unstable; most trans people I know are unbelievably strong. You have to be. Being transgender is hard, unnecessarily so. Even under the best conditions, it’s difficult, painful and expensive.

For those who have had their friends or family turn away, it can be more than a person can take. The feelings of hopelessness can be overwhelming. When you are bullied or government leaders propose laws to restrict your freedom or religious groups tell you that you are sick and an abomination, it can push you to the brink.

I’m fighting depression myself right now. I admit it; this is hard to take. There is no break. It’s relentless.

Even those who mean well all want to talk about where I go to the bathroom and what I think about this law or that, or what I think about Dan Patrick telling people that trans women are a danger or threat to women and children.

I’m exhausted. I am tired of fighting for this most basic human right. I’m tired of defending myself and my brothers and sisters who have done nothing wrong yet are the targets of so much hate.

Krissy, I wish I had known you. I wish I could have been there for you. Most of all, I wish you were still with us. We need you. Your life was worth living.

I feel so heartbroken that people who are running for office don’t understand that their words can hurt. That their words can kill.

I wish that people who call themselves “Christians” would follow the words of Christ and love each other rather than trying to destroy God’s children —  like you, Krissy.

I cried when I heard you died. I cried long and hard, inconsolable tears. I mourn your loss and the loss of others like you — some dying at their own hand, and others being taken from us in violent murder.

My insides are in knots.

I am encouraged by the support of those who oppose HB2 — from Bruce Springsteen to the NCAA, Equality Texas and the HRC, my friends who are cis-gender who know me, love me and want to witness equality in my lifetime.

I really believe that we are on the right side of history and we will eventually prevail.

But as in any war, there will be casualties. And they will be tragic.

We aren’t just statistics. We aren’t men in dresses. We aren’t a danger to women and children.

We are complex, living, breathing, creative, loving people with families. We deserve nothing less than full equality. We know who we are, we just wish that you’d get to know us.

Disagree if you want, but please, be civil. Your hatred is killing us.

Leslie McMurray, a transgender woman, is a former radio DJ who lives and works in Dallas. Read more of her blogs at lesliemichelle44.wordpress.com

—  Dallasvoice

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
nash@dallasvoice.com

 

“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

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

UPDATE:Vote now! Show support for FWISD’s trans guidelines

 

 

Screen shot 2016-05-10 at 11.43.05 AMUPDATE: New link to the story and the poll here. At 2:10, results stand at 64 percent in favor of allowing individuals to use facilities according to gender identity.

 

CBSDFW Channel 11 has a news story online right now about Dan Patrick’s plan to attend the Fort Worth Independent School District board meeting tonight to try and bully the district into rescinding the most comprehensive and fair set of guidelines on handling transgender issues in the schools that we’ve seen so far.

Included, down toward the bottom of the page, is a poll intending to gauge support for the guidelines vs. opposition. Right now, the support side is lagging by about 1 percent. So get on over there and let them know how you feel.

 

—  Tammye Nash

Paxton offers his 2 cents on N.C. bathroom bill

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

Texas AG Ken Paxton

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — that shining beacon of integrity and knowledge of the law who last year told Texas county clerks they did not have to abide by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality and who last month was sued for securities fraud in civil court by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (he is already facing state criminal fraud charges — today issued a statement in support of North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory.

Paxton released his statement after McCrory announced he is suing the U.S. Department of Justice so he can keep his discriminatory bathroom bill. The DoJ had given McCrory until the close of business today to explain his plan for flushing the bathroom bill or risk losing billions in federal funding for his state.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is expected to hold a press conference any minute now to announce what enforcement action the federal government will take against North Carolina.

Here’s what AG Paxton had to say:

“The people of the United States, through their representatives in Congress, enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ensure, in part, that men and women are treated equally. Congress has not changed this law to mean that individuals may choose whether they want to be male or female for the purpose of public accommodations. One’s sex is a biological fact, not a state of mind, and this threat to North Carolina is the latest in a long series of efforts by an unaccountable federal executive branch. My office stands with Governor McCrory and the people of North Carolina regarding this unconstitutional form of federal overreach.”

May we suggest that AG Paxton crawl into the 21st century and come to terms with the fact that GENDER is not binary and neither is it necessarily defined by biological genitalia.

—  Tammye Nash

FWISD Trans Guidelines under attack; FFW calls on supporters to attend board meeting

Dmack

FFW President David Mack Henderson

Fairness Fort Worth is asking for as many people as possible to turn out for the Tuesday night, May 10 meeting for the Fort Worth Independent School District board meeting to show support for new guidelines on transgender issues recently signed by Superintendent Kent Scribner.

Those attending in support of the guidelines are asked to wear red shirts.

FFW President David Mack Henderson, who praised the guidelines as “excellent template for other schools seeking a reasonable solution to this issue,” warned that Scribner and the new guidelines are “under attack by the most virulent of conservatives.” He said it is rumored that right-wing commentator and radio host Glenn Beck will be attending the meeting, bringing with him a host of Tea Party activists to speak against the guidelines.

From the FFW Facebook page:

Beck

Right-wing jerk Glenn Beck

“Some trustees and citizens said they’d like to hear open discussion. We’ve planned a response that does just that — by educating. This is not a protest, but a “Thank You” that we’re eager to deliver.

“We understand there will be speakers from various stakeholder perspectives, but we MUST FILL THE ROOM with as many of our supporters as possible. Those out to harm us plan to be there and we need to show our community’s strength and not take their bait.

There are indicators this will be a significant press event. (Glenn Beck is coming?)

“Our show of support is vital to keep and implement the guidelines and, by extension, move the needle in other school districts. Part of the backlash plan after our Marriage Equality decision last summer is to target our most vulnerable people, trans children. They want to turn back our clock. NOT IN MY CITY! We must respond as a solid LGBTQA community block.

“These are our children too. Please invite your ally friends especially! SEE YOU TUESDAY! (Parking will be tight; get there early.)”

 

—  Tammye Nash

Denton County sheriff candidate cancels meeting with Equality Texas

Tracy Murphree

Tracy Murphree

Tracy Murphree, the Republican candidate for Denton County sheriff who grabbed headlines late last week with a Facebook post implying he would use violence against transgender women in public restrooms, has cancelled a planned meeting with representatives of Equality Texas and Denton County couple who have a transgender child.

The meeting had been set for Thursday morning. But, according to a statement released today (Friday, April 29), Murphree sent a message Wednesday evening saying, “I won’t be at the meeting tomorrow. I feel I have made my position clear that I am not targeting transgenders but concerned about predators taking advantage of the policies. I really have nothing else to add.”

In a post to his Facebook page on Friday, April 22, referring to laws like the one recently passed in North Carolina that prevent transgender individuals from using appropriate public restroom facilities, Murphree wrote: “This whole bathroom thing is craziness I have never seen. All I can say is this. If my little girl is in a public women’s restroom and a man, regardless of how he may identify, goes into that bathroom, he will then identify as John Doe until he wakes up in whatever hospital he may be taken to. Your identity does not trump my little girl’s safety.”

Many people saw Murphree’s post, which has since been removed from public view, as a threat of violence against transgender women in public restrooms. Denton County residents Adam and Amber Briggle, parents of an 8-year old transgender child, publicly expressed their concern with Murphree’s statements. Murphree later issued an apology of sorts — saying he understood people’s anger over his statements and that he had been referring to pedophiles and other sexual predators, not trans women — and agreed to meet with the Briggles and Equality Texas representatives.

After Murphree cancelled the meeting, Equality Texas board Chair Steve Rudner issued a statement, telling the candidate, “What you’ve not done is allow yourself the chance to listen.”

In the written statement, the statewide LGBT advocacy organization said: “At Equality Texas we believe it is inappropriate and unacceptable for any law enforcement official to make inflammatory statements that condone violence against any member their community. No Texan should ever have to live in fear of violence because of their gender identity or gender expression, especially from someone that has taken an oath to serve and protect them from harm.

“Equality Texas will continue to work with the Briggle family, local organizations, and Denton County area residents to end falsehoods about the LGBT community that do nothing to serve and protect victims and potential victims of violence. We believe ending sexual violence begins by treating all people, including those who are transgender, with fairness and respect.”

Murphree, who defeated Republican incumbent Sheriff William Travis in the March primary, is widely expected to win his general election race against Libertarian Randy Butler. Following Murphree’s post on April 22, Butler posted a statement on his Facebook page pointing out that in most cases in which a child is molested, the culprit is a family member,r family friend or clergy member, not a stranger.

Butler went on to say: This issue isn’t about protecting the children though. It’s about the same problem us humans have always struggled with — bigotry and hatred towards those we don’t understand. … We are ultimately responsible for the safety and well-being of our children, but we are also responsible for the well-being and safety of our fellow humans.”

 

—  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
nash@dallasvoice.com

 

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