Critics Applaud, Supporters Decry New Fort Worth ISD Transgender Guidelines

“I had no intention of engaging in a political debate. This is about protecting students so they can learn.”

By Christopher Connelly July 21, 2016 9:28 am, , ,

From KERA News:

After months of uproar over the guidelines for transgender students in Fort Worth school, the district released an updated version yesterday. Many opponents of the original anti-bullying effort applauded the new version, but some transgender advocates say the changes strip out many of the strongest elements in the original.

Critics of the original transgender guidelines were vocal, especially about bathrooms. Opponents argued that the guidelines would have let transgender kids use the bathroom of their choice. Superintendent Kent Scribner says that was never true.

“It was more than a misunderstanding it was fallacy,” Scribner said. “And it was unfortunate that this issue of protecting students from being bullied became such a political football.”

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was the loudest critic. He charged into Fort Worth to call for the superintendent’s resignation and panned the guidelines as social engineering. Back in May he told KERA the whole process felt undemocratic.

“There was no hearing, there was no school board vote,” Patrick said. “So when a dictator, who parades himself as a superintendent, who issues an executive order in secret, to bypass local control, then I have to step in.”

On Wednesday, Patrick called the new guidelines a victory for parents’ rights and student safety. In Scribner’s first interviews since the controversy blew up, he said the guidelines are product of a 2011 school board vote that added gender identity and expression to the district’s nondiscrimination policy.

“My job was to implement those policies with administrative regulations and guidelines. That’s what we did here,” Scribner said. “We’ve passed guidelines on lice, we’ve passed guidelines on field trips, and this is another guideline. And I had no intention of engaging in a political debate, this is about protecting students so they can learn.”

After hours of school board meetings and community forums, the district has addressed one key concern from its critics. Under the original guidelines, transgender kids who asked for accommodations didn’t have to worry about school officials outing them to their parents. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said that violated state law.

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