New Policy Makes School Counselors Transgender Students’ Allies. What’s That Mean?

But Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick thinks the Fort Worth school district’s new guidelines are inappropriate.

By Rhonda FanningMay 10, 2016 9:30 am

There’s yet another battle for transgender civil rights in the U.S. – Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is calling for the resignation of the new superintendent of Fort Worth schools, Kent Paredes Scribner. Scribner recently issued new guidelines asking that students have access to restrooms consistent with “the gender identity that each student consistently and uniformly asserts.”

Patrick released a statement saying Scribner has lost his focus and his ability to lead Fort Worth ISD through placing his personal political agenda before the needs of the district’s students.

“Every parent, especially those of young girls, should be outraged,” Patrick said in a statement. “I call upon the parents within the Fort Worth ISD to take immediate steps to repeal this stealthy scheme and remove Dr. Scribner from his post.”

In response, Scribner says he will not resign and that he’s proud of the district’s transgender policies.

Scribner also gave instructions for school personnel on their relationships with the parents of transgender or questioning students. According to the new rules, campus counselors are to serve as “a designated ally” for students on gender identity issues. They are to share information with that student’s parents, only “on a need-to-know basis or as the student directs.” Counselors are also directed to work with the student to assess the degree to which, if any, parents are to be consulted.

Janet Froeschle Hicks, a professor of counselor education in Lubbock, says that counselors are there for every student – not just students maneuvering sexuality or gender identity issues. The role of the counselor is to build trust and act as a resource for all students, without ostracizing any one group. The new guidelines fit appropriately with this role, Hicks says.

“The students who are the most bullied in schools, the students who are the most harassed, the most apt to be harmed, are gay students and your transgendered students,” Hicks says. “Often the school counselor is the one safe place that these students can go to help them just get through the day.”

But what about the new standards on allowing students to dictate when information is disclosed to parents? There is a constant balance school counselors have to manage, Hicks says, when it comes to building trust with students and keeping parents informed.

“When a school counselor sees a student they have a legal obligation – if a parent asks to know what was said to them – they have to tell that parent,” Hicks says. “But ethically you have to look at it on the other side.”

If a student is coming to a counselor for help, they need it, and they often need it to be confidential, Hicks says. As long as the student is not in imminent danger – talking about self-harm or harm to others – the counselor is allowed keep things confidential from the parents under these new guidelines.

Prepared for web by Beth Cortez-Neavel.