As school officials talk about a reasonable compromise, anti-trans forces claim victory


FWISD Superintendent Kent Scribner, right, said the district’s guidelines for dealing transgender students have always and still do focus on what’s best for all students. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, left, and other conservatives claimed victory when the district amended those guidelines this week.

James Russell | Contributing Writer

Officials with the Fort Worth school district  released a revised version of the transgender student guidelines on Wednesday, July 20, after three months of revisions and scrutiny from opponents.

The guidelines first issued in April were a detailed, eight-page document clarifying the district’s existing anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies, which were amended to include gender identity and expression in 2011.

Previously, the guidelines warned “transitioning is a very private matter [and] 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.”

Opponents argued that suggestions excluded parents from the discussion. Groups like conservative family values organization Texas Values also alleged the public accommodations would allow “boys in girls bathrooms.”

The two-page revised document now includes clear language about the importance of the relationship among students, schools and parents. Support staff and teachers will work with families on a case-by-case basis, including in public facility accommodations.

Both supporters and opponents called the compromise a victory, though in markedly different terms.

“The new guidelines reflect what we’ve heard from students and teachers, parents and pastors. Our focus from the beginning has been the safety of all children and that, overwhelmingly, was the concern we heard from our parents and others,” Superintendent Kent Scribner said in a statement. “The new guidelines place a heavy emphasis on involving parents and trusts students, teachers and parents to work together to make the right decisions.”

David Mack Henderson, president of Fairness Fort Worth, praised Scribner’s leadership during a divisive time.

“Scribner is wise enough to know questions will remain and has assured me that an educational component for principals will be provided,” Henderson wrote via text message.

“This is a living document that will breathe over time as we gain more experience. I suspect the best educators for us all are the very children who will teach us what it means to live authentically and proud.”

Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values, called the revisions “a sweeping reversal.”

The school district, Saenz said, “reversed their transgender policy [and] is a victory for parents, common sense, and the rule of law. Fort Worth ISD’s dramatic retreat on its bathrooms policy should send a message to all Texas school districts — you don’t mess with parents’ rights and safety in Texas public schools,” Saenz said in a statement.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who bombarded a school board meeting in May and asked for a legal opinion from Attorney General Ken Paxton, also chimed in.

“This policy, as originally adopted, cut students, parents, the community, teachers and principals out of the process. It ran contrary to the basic tenets of local control. As I hoped when I submitted the request for a legal opinion from our attorney general, this change brings FWISD in line with parents’ rights detailed under current law and requires administrators to resolve these issues on a case-by-case basis, as they have been. We will continue to closely monitor this issue moving forward,” Patrick said in a statement.

But Ashley Paz, first vice president of the school board and supporter of the guidelines, struck a conciliatory tone.

“I am extremely proud of the leadership shown by [Superintendent] Scribner and [Board President Jacinto] Ramos in navigating the process. They led our administration and board to listen to parties with many different perspectives. At the end of the day, there was a healthy give and take, and the final outcome protects all students which is our ultimate goal,” Paz said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 22, 2016.