The transgender student guidelines adopted in April by the Fort Worth Independent School District violate state law, according to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. He rendered an opinion late Tuesday in response to Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s inquiry whether the school district’s transgender student guidelines violated the state’s education code by keeping “student information from parents.”
Patrick also questioned if Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Dr. Kent Paredes Scribner overstepped his authority in unilaterally adopting these policies without community input and a school board vote.
In a non-binding opinion, Paxton wrote the transgender policies violated Chapter 26 and Chapter 11 of the Texas Education Code.
Chapter 26 of the Texas Education Code (TEC) covers Parental Rights and Responsibilities a.k.a. the “Parent’s Bill of Rights.” It outlines parents’ roles in a variety of educational matters regarding their child. Paxton noted the Fort Worth ISD transgender guidelines relegate “parents to a subordinate status” and “limit parental access to information about their child and operate to encourage students to withhold information from parents.”
The Attorney General stated: “Chapter 26 of the Education Code provides that parents must have access to all written records of a school district concerning their child, as well as full information regarding the child’s school activities. Attempts to encourage a child to withhold information from his or her parents may be grounds for discipline.”
He added: “To the extent that the Transgender Student Guidelines adopted by the Fort Worth Independent School District superintendent limit parental access to information about their child and operate to encourage students to withhold information from parents contrary to the provisions in chapter 26, they violate state law.”
In addressing if Scribner had the authority to singlehandedly adopt the district-wide transgender bathroom and locker room policies, Paxton cited Chapter 11 of the Texas Education Code, which covers governance. He wrote Chapter 11 “requires that boards of trustees adopt policies for the district, while superintendents implement those policies by developing administrative regulations.”
Paxton stated: “While a superintendent is authorized to recommend policies to be adopted by the board, chapter 11 requires that policy decisions, like those addressing parental involvement with students’ gender identity choices, be addressed by the board of trustees prior to the development of any related administrative regulations.”
Essentially, Paxton said the district violated state law by not following protocol. They did not go through the school board. He indicated that “transition” portions of the transgender policies to ‘work closely with the student’ to determine to what extent, if any, a parent will be involved in the student’s transitioning suggests that employees could, pursuant to these restrictions, encourage some children to withhold information from a parent” exceeds what the policy actually addressed.
In a statement, the Lt. Governor called Paxton’s opinion a “clear and resounding victory for parents within the Fort Worth ISD who deserve a transparent superintendent and school board that follows the law.”
Patrick added: “As I said from the beginning, Superintendent Kent Scribner violated the Texas Education Code when he unilaterally adopted his so-called transgender policies without school board approval.”
He also said: “In light of this Attorney General opinion, and the overwhelming opposition to these policies, I once again call upon Superintendent Scribner to pull down his illegal policies. If he does not, I call upon him to tender his resignation.”
Patrick first called for Scribner’s resignation after the superintendent adopted the transgender policies without any community or school board input. He characterized Scribner actions as “irresponsible” and questioned his “focus” by placing his “personal political agenda” ahead of the district’s over 86,000 students. Patrick later admonished Scribner, saying: “The job of a superintendent is not to be a ‘social engineer.’”
In May, Paxton wrote a forceful letter to Fort Worth ISD School Board President Jacinto A. Ramos, Jr., in which he expressed his “strong concern that this policy violates provisions in the Texas Education Code that give parents an unequivocal right to information regarding their children and is motivated by a misguided view of Title IX,” Breitbart Texas’ Lana Shadwick reported.
Fort Worth ISD continued to defend the guidelines. Scribner argued the policies were not new but a board update to a non-discrimination policy, which he claimed: “…in 2012, we added protections against gender-based harassment.” He insisted they “provide campus personnel with the direction to support all kids in a balanced and dignified way.”
Patrick countered that the state has anti-bullying and anti-harassment measures in place through 2011’s S.B. 205. “I believe in protecting every student,” he said during a press conference, adding, “This has nothing to do with anyone being against a transgender child, or a gay child.”
Paxton sued the Obama administration over its transgender directive that allows students to use bathroom and other facilities that they “gender identify” with at the moment, which Shadwick also reported. At last count, officials in 11 other states joined the lawsuit. The federal directive contains implied threats to cut education funding if a state does not comply.
The Obama administration’s transgender order came shortly after Scribner implemented Fort Worth ISD’s policies. In 2011, the President appointed Scribner to serve on the advisory commission of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.