Bathrooms in the Spotlight at Fort Worth School Board Meeting Protests

Calls from the attorney general and lieutenant governor for the Fort Worth superintendent’s resignation brought out the masses to overflow capacity at a regularly scheduled school board meeting.  

By Rhonda FanningMay 11, 2016 2:32 pm| ,

Does sex mean identity? The current bathroom brouhaha has overflowed from North Carolina and may well turn on the question of whether the word “sex” in the law prohibiting discrimination includes a prohibition against people who are transgender.

The Justice Department claims the word “sex” also covers gender identity, not just anatomical designation. That notion is challenged not just by North Carolina, but also by Texas, in a letter from the attorney general to the Fort Worth ISD asking officials to reconsider new guidelines aimed at accommodating students who are transgender at school.

Adding to the controversy is the role of Fort Worth school counselors who, according to the school district’s guidelines, can determine whether to involve parents in discussions that students may have with them about their sexual identity.

Last night, demonstrators inundated the district’s school board meeting – those both for and against the district’s policies.  Kiah Collier, a Texas Tribune reporter, was at the school board meeting last night. Collier says the bathroom guidelines weren’t on the agenda, but took over the conversation during the hour-long public comment period.

Collier says a line snaked out the door, with hundreds of people joining the meeting. About 20 speakers took the mic during the public comment period to both support and criticize the board’s bathroom guidelines. “They got to hear an earful from both sides,” she says.

Several state officials held press conferences yesterday about the Fort Worth guidelines, including Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who called for the resignation for the Fort Worth Superintendent Kent Scribner. Collier says the line about violating Texas Education Code was echoed by both Paxton and Patrick.

“The passage of the guidelines violated it, because they feel like it was secretive and done behind closed doors,” she says. “There was no public comment period on these guidelines but trustees and Superintendent Scribner both say they stem from a discrimination ordinance that was updated in 2012 to provide protections for transgender students.”

Collier says school district officials pointed out that the bathroom protection in question was simply putting that non-discrimination policy into effect, making a rule specifically for it. “They were kind of surprised when it blew up the way it did,” Collier says.

A lot of parents seemed upset about the bathroom guidelines, Collier says, and joined in the call for Superintendent Scribner, but so far he’s stood by the guidelines and the school board has stood by him.

“It could escalate perhaps,” she says. “If anything, I can see them holding a retroactive public comment period… It’s important to note that these are administrative guidelines and superintendents have the authority to implement rules like this without official board approval.”

Post prepared by Hannah McBride.